April 6, 2013
Box Score (PDF)
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall starting pitcher Aaron Blair threw eight innings of two-hit ball to help the Thundering Herd baseball team blank No. 19 Houston 4-0 on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon at Appalachian Power Park.
Marshall (13-17, 3-2 Conference USA) won the series with its fifth shutout victory of the season. The first-place Cougars, which were shut out for only the second time this season, dropped their fourth straight and fell to 23-9 (5-3 C-USA).
Blair (5-1) dazzled for all eight innings of work, allowing just four base runners all afternoon. The junior, who retired 14 straight opposing hitters at one point, struck out 11 (five looking) and won his fourth decision in as many starts.
Freshman third baseman Aaron Bossi put Marshall on the board in the bottom of the second when he lifted a two-out, two-strike single over the head of Houston second baseman Josh Vidales, scoring Gray Stafford from second. Stafford had reached base on a single and was moved to second via Eric Escobedo’s sacrifice bunt.
From there, Blair would carry the Herd into the eighth, never with more than the 1-0 lead. Marshall threatened again in the third but Houston starting pitcher Austin Pruitt (6-2) was also effective.
Pruitt retired 14 straight opposing hitters of his own, from partway into the third all the way through the end of the seventh, and struck out five in 7.1 innings but suffered the loss. The right-hander conceded six hits and ran into trouble in the eighth when Marshall wrung three runs out of him in its final at-bat.
It was only the second loss Pruitt suffered in eight decisions this season.
Andrew Dundon, Nathan Gomez, and Stafford all hit RBI-singles in the eighth, breaking the game open for reliever Josh King.
King was perfect in the ninth, inducing two fly-outs before getting Houston cleanup hitter Caleb Barker swinging to end the game.
Houston posed a real threat in the top of the eighth when Landon Appling reached base on a two-out walk (the only one issued by Blair) then stole second. Appling represented the tying run with the game still 1-0, but a sharply hit ground ball to Sergio Leon at short was not enough for Vidales and the Cougars.
Dundon and Stafford were both 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run. Bossi and Isaac Ballou were 1-for-3. Ballou’s streak of reaching base reached 22 games when he singled on a swinging bunt in the third. The senior also walked in the eighth.
For Blair, it was the fifth quality start in seven chances this season and the third start in which he went at least six innings without giving up a run (earned or otherwise). The eight-inning outing was the longest of the season and matched the longest of his career (Southern Miss on April 27, 2012). His 11 K’s tied his season high (West Virginia on March 19) and came up two shy of his career high of 13 (Gardner-Webb on March 9, 2012).
Houston’s only hits came from Frankie Ratcliff (1-for-4) and Justin Montemayor (1-for-3). Montemayor doubled to lead off the fourth but was left stranded at third when Blair began his run of 14 straight retired hitters.
The series finale will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday morning at Appalachian Power Park.