March 9, 2012
Final Stats | Box Score (PDF) | 2012 Season Statistics
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. -- Sophomore Aaron Blair struck out a career high 13 as the Marshall baseball team snapped a three-game losing streak and beat Gardner-Webb 3-1 on Friday.
It was the most strikeouts a member of the Thundering Herd threw in any one game during Marshall’s time as a member of Conference-USA.
Marshall improved to 5-8 with the victory and snapped Gardner-Webb’s four-game winning streak.
Blair (1-2, 3.57) had the Runnin’ Bulldogs guessing all day. He struck out three in the second and fifth innings and another two in the third and sixth as every member of Gardner-Webb’s starting lineup went down on strikes at some point during Blair’s 7.0 innings pitched. In addition to his 13 punchouts, the Las Vegas, Nev. native allowed just two hits, one (earned) run, and one walk en route to his first victory this season.
Isaac Ballou opened things up right off the bat for the Herd, drawing a lead-off walk before stealing second and third to set up an RBI ground-out from Nathan Gomez for the early lead.
Blair began his outing with a walk to Gardner-Webb lead-off hitter Benji Jackson who, like Ballou, came around to score later in the inning. Following the game-tying single in the bottom of the first, Blair recorded outs on the next 13 batters. The only hitter to reach base during that stretch was left fielder Ryan Allen who made it to first on a dropped third strike. Gardner-Webb hitters reached first via a dropped third strike a total of three times as Blair had hitters chasing just about everything.
Blair went perfect in the second inning, needing only nine pitches to strike out the side. Those nine straight strikes were a part of the 20-straight he threw beginning late in the first inning and continuing well into the third. Seven straight hitters saw nothing but strikes from Blair during that stretch. In all, Blair threw 94 pitches, 68 of which he landed in the zone.
Marshall took the lead again in the fourth thanks to a two-out, RBI double from Alfredo Brito. The Herd clung to that 2-1 lead for three full innings until Gomez added his second RBI in the eighth to make it 3-1.
Gardner-Webb threatened in each of the final two frames once Blair departed. With Matt Margaritonda working in relief, Scott Johnson doubled over the head of John Gandolfo in left field with two outs in the eighth. GWU proceeded to earn a pair of walks to load the bases before Jesse Fernandez was brought in to relieve Margaritonda. Fernandez picked up right where Blair left off, using only four pitches to strike out Adam McFarland.
In the ninth, Brantley Smith doubled with two gone in the inning, and Ryan Allen followed by reaching first on another dropped third strike. But Fernandez would get Jackson looking on the next at-bat to close out the game.
Gomez finished the game 1-for-3 with two RBIs. Gandolfo went 2-for-4 and was the only member of the Herd to record two hits. Ballou went 1-for-4 with two runs and two stolen bases. Fernandez struck out four of his own and picked up his first save of the season.
For Gardner-Webb, Johnson, John Harris, Scott Coleman, and Smith were the only ones to manage hits as the Marshall pitching staff combined for a four-hitter. Harris provided the RBI for the Bulldogs with a rope single up the middle in the first.
Marshall and GWU will square off two more times over the weekend. Saturday’s game will begin at 1 p.m. with Sunday’s first pitch set for 2 p.m. Live chat, stats, and updates via Twitter will all be available.