Herd shuts out WVU
CHARLESTON -- The first in-state baseball meeting between Marshall University and West Virginia University in 15 years Tuesday night proved to be memorable.
Marshall pitcher Aaron Blair got out of a first-inning jam to throw six innings of no-hit baseball while striking out 11 in front of 15 to 20 scouts from Major League Baseball teams in the Thundering Herd's 8-0 win over the Mountaineers at Appalachian Power Park.
"It means everything to our program," Blair said. "We haven't played them in 15 years in West Virginia. We came out here and shut them out. Great pitching, great hitting, great defense. It was perfect."
The six no-hit innings extend Blair's scoreless innings streak to 13 consecutive. The last time he allowed a run was March 3 in the sixth inning of a 6-5 loss USC Upstate.
Blair was all smiles after the game.
"The first inning was kind of shaky, but after that I settled into a groove and started throwing fast balls for strikes," Blair said. "The rhythm was the big thing."
On a cold, gusty evening at the ballpark, Blair walked the first two batters he faced before plunking the third to load the bases with no outs and West Virginia slugger Matt Frazer coming to the plate.
After a visit from Marshall pitching coach Joe Renner, Blair settled in nicely. He kept Frazer off balance before striking him out then proceeded to fan the next two batters he faced to get out of the jam and give the Herd momentum.
"You've got a bunch of scouts back there, you're pitching in one of the biggest games for the program, so you're going to be juiced up," Marshall head coach Jeff Waggoner said. "I think after, obviously, he got out of that jam right there that he settled in. That's the Aaron Blair we know. You know he's going to give you an opportunity to win the game."
Blair's effort sparked the Marshall offense, which got back-to-back hits in each of the first two innings to provide Blair with all the run support he needed.
In each of the first two innings, miscues by the Mountaineers also proved costly, leading to additional runs for the Herd.
An errant throw on a double-play attempt allowed Isaac Ballou to open the scoring in the first inning and a throw in the dirt to third following a sacrifice fly let Aaron Bossi cross the plate behind Chase Vogelbach to make it 3-0 after two innings.
Vogelbach then provided a two-run single in the third as part of a three-run frame that doubled the lead. He finished 2-of-3 on the day in a balanced Herd attack that saw eight of nine starters record a hit against the Mountaineers.
West Virginia coach Randy Mazey said the first inning was the turning point and his team couldn't overcome the swing.
"I don't think it drained us near as much as it gave them momentum," Mazey said. "It's pretty hard to give a team momentum before they hit the first time, but we found a way to do that. They came flying off the field in the first inning with a ton of energy."
Blair came out of the game in the sixth inning with an 8-0 lead after he reached the 100-pitch mark. He said he got stronger as the game went along and could have finished, but understood when Waggoner came to him and said he was done.
"That's not easy," Waggoner said. "He's just a competitor and he wants to be in every inning, every pitch. That's what makes him so great."
The Mountaineers ended up with just two hits -- one an infield single that snuck under reliever Josh King's glove and the other a double by Billy Fleming off King in the ninth inning. King ended the game with a strikeout and a fist-pump to put the stamp on a 17-strikeout performance by Herd pitchers.
The win marked the first time in 22 years Marshall defeated West Virginia in baseball. The last time was a 6-3 win in Morgantown back in 1991.
"First thing we have to understand is that it's one out of three games," Waggoner said. "But what a great opportunity for both clubs and great for the state of West Virginia. It was nice to see a good turnout from Marshall fans."
Tuesday was game one of three scheduled between the teams this season. The next meeting will be April 2 in Morgantown before a final meeting of the season at Epling Stadium in Beckley on May 14.
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