Herd gets series win over Mountaineers, 6-5
BECKLEY -- Hitting .200 and with 25 strikeouts in 105 at-bats, this hasn't been the greatest of senior baseball seasons for Alfredo Brito.
Things picked up in a big way Tuesday.
Brito's two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning highlighted Marshall University's three-run rally, and the Thundering Herd earned year-long bragging rights with a 6-5 win over West Virginia at Beckley's Linda K. Epling Stadium.
Marshall (20-31) earned a series win over the Mountaineers, taking two of three from its in-state rival. When the teams met March 19 in Charleston -- an 8-0 Marshall win -- it was the first time they played since a Myrtle Beach tournament in 2008, and the first within state borders since 1998.
The Mountaineers' 10-2 win April 2 in Morgantown set up the rubber game, which was witnessed by a series-high crowd of 2,103.
Brito, perhaps the unlikeliest of sources, made it a happy night for Herd fans.
Trailing 5-3 in the seventh inning, Marshall loaded the bases when Andrew Dundon hit a leadoff double, Gray Stafford walked and Isaac Ballou laced a single just over the head of WVU shortstop Michael Constantini. A sacrifice fly to left field by Nathan Gomez scored Dundon to make it 5-4.
Eric Escobedo struck out looking for the second out, but Stafford and Ballou both moved up on stolen bases.
That's when Brito delivered, sending a 2-1 pitch from reliever Josh Harlow to the gap in right-center for the tying and go-ahead runs.
"He got it in there enough where I thought I had it," said Brito, who pumped his fists after pulling into second. "It was just a big hit in a big moment. It felt great, especially after struggling the way I have been this year. It's all about just staying with it. It's been hard, but (the hit) felt great."
West Virginia (30-23) chased Marshall starter Alex Thackston with a three-run second, but five Herd relievers combined for eight innings of one-run baseball.
Ryan Hopkins (4-2) got the win after facing just one batter, relieving Michael Taylor with a runner on second in the seventh. Matt Hummel threw a perfect eighth, then Josh King did the same in the ninth for his team-leading sixth save.
"It wasn't actually their bullpen. They ran their weekend starters out there," first-year WVU coach Randy Mazey said. "But that's what they do. Their weekend starters always pitch against us, and they pitched better than we did."
Taylor and Chase Boster, who replaced Thackston in the second, have weekend starting experience, but Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said the pitchers he used will be sent to the bullpen for the regular season-ending Conference USA series at Rice that starts Thursday.
"They did a great job of coming in and keeping us right there in the game," Waggoner said.
Mazey elected not to play several of his starters, including outfielders Jacob Rice, who is hitting .327, and Brady Wilson and catcher Alan Filauro.
WVU opens a Big 12 series Thursday at Oklahoma State.
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