March 24, 2012
Box Score (PDF) | 2012 Season Statistics
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Alfredo Brito smacked a three-run homer down the right field line with one out in the top of the ninth to break a tie and send the Marshall baseball team to a 7-4 victory over UAB Friday night here at Young Memorial Field.
The home run was Brito’s team-leading third long ball of the season and helped the Thundering Herd avoid what could have been a monumental comeback orchestrated by the Blazers in the teams’ conference opener.
After taking a 4-0 lead midway through the fifth inning, Marshall (10-11, 1-0 C-USA) gave up a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth followed by three UAB runs in the sixth to even things up at 4-4.
The Herd, however, fueled by Josh King’s six punchouts from the bullpen, kept the game level until the ninth when Brito took UAB reliever Chase Mallard deep on a 2-0 pitch.
“I was sitting on one pitch and got the one I wanted,” quoted Brito, “and when I hit it, I was just hoping the wind would keep taking it out.”
The home run came after UAB chose to intentionally pass Nathan Gomez with first base open and pitch to Brito in the cleanup spot instead. Isaac Ballou reached base earlier in the inning via a lead-off single through the right side and was bunted to second by Gray Stafford.
King was brought in relief of Marshall starter Aaron Blair, whom the Blazers rattled in the sixth with three runs on four hits and a walk. UAB’s rally started with two outs and the bases clear. King gave up a pair of hits and a walk but struck out the side in both the seventh and the eighth innings.
In all, Blair threw six innings and allowed four earned runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out six. King allowed two hits and no runs in two innings of work; he struck out six and walked one.
Jesse Fernandez closed the game out in the ninth and picked up his third save of the season. The senior put down the Blazers in order in the final frame with three easy ground balls.
Marshall scored its first run in the third when Ballou reached first base on an error, took second on a balk, went to third on a Stafford single, then scored on a Gomez sacrifice fly.
The Herd added three more runs to that lead in the fifth as Ballou tripled in Andrew Dundon from second and came around to score along with Stafford later in the inning.
The triple put Ballou tied with Jim Reynolds atop Marshall’s all-time list of triples leaders. The Smithville, Va. native notched his 11th career triple 21 games into his junior season and now needs only one to pass Reynolds, who played from 1993 to 1996.
Stafford and Gomez had the other RBI hits in the fifth as the Herd pulled ahead by four.
Stafford went 3-for-4 in the contest and improved his season batting average to .256. Brito and Ballou each went 2-for-5; Brito drove in three runs and scored once while Ballou drove in one and scored three times.
UAB (14-9, 0-1 C-USA) was led by Jeff Schalk, Tanner Bryant, Harry Clark who all recorded two hits. Blazer starter Dillon Napolean went 6.2 innings, struck out three and walked three in the no-decision.
Marshall is now 1-0 in Conference USA, tied with UCF, Rice, and Southern Miss for the conference lead. The Herd will have a chance to go 2-0 and improve to five hundred overall when it faces UAB again Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.