Baseball Falls on 11th-Inning Walk-Off|
May 19, 2012
NEW ORLEANS, La. -- A monumental comeback from the Marshall baseball set the stage for the most dramatic finish of the season, but a walk-off base hit from Tulane designated hitter Andrew Garner in the bottom of the 11th lifted the Green Wave to a 6-5 victory Friday night here at Turchin Stadium.
Marshall (16-37, 4-19 C-USA) battled to keep its post-season hopes alive for all 65 and two-thirds outs, but it was Garner who lined a single up the middle on a 2-2 pitch with two out in the 11th to eliminate the Thundering Herd's hope of narrowly qualifying for the 2012 Conference USA tournament.
Entering Friday's game, Marshall needed back-to-back wins over Tulane plus back-to-back losses from Houston (playing Memphis) in order to qualify for the tourney. As the Herd entered the bottom of the 11th in a tie game, Memphis was rallying with two base-runners in the top of the 11th in Houston.
Within minutes of Memphis taking the lead over the Cougars, Garner slapped his game-winner to center field, dooming Marshall to its fourth walk-off loss of the season, all of which came in the last month.
Marshall erased a 5-0 deficit over the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings to force extra innings. The Herd even had several golden opportunities to claim the lead. In the eighth, Thor Meeks provided the game-tying RBI with a double to left field but he would be left stranded as the relay home came just in time to throw out Gray Stafford trying to score from first.
In the ninth, Marshall loaded the bases with one out but was unable to bring anyone home. Eric Semeniuk and Isaac Ballou led off that inning with a pair of singles, were moved over on a sacrifice bunt by Andrew Dundon before Tulane chose to intentionally walk Nathan Gomez in the three-hole. That brought up Eric Escobedo - a freshman who has been on a tear ever since being moved into the clean-up spot - with the bases loaded. Escobedo lined a shot up the middle with a base hit and two RBIs written all over it, but Tulane second baseman Bowen Woodson's spectacular dive and catch robbed the Troup, Ga. native of his second hit of the day.
The ninth inning ended on a groundout from pinch-hitting Tripp Faulk.
The Herd did not get much closer than that, going three up, three down in the 10th, then stranding Ballou on first in the 11th.
Tulane (36-17, 13-9) took the lead on Marshall starter Mike Mason with three runs in the second and another two in the fifth before being shut down by Marshall's relief staff.
Relievers Joe Church, Matt Margaritonda, and Jesse Fernandez worked around three walks and a hit batter but did not allow a base hit from the .312-hitting Green Wave over 5.1 innings. Church, who pitched the sixth and seventh along with part of the fifth, struck out three. Margaritonda struck out four in 1.1 innings. And Fernandez fanned one while taking Marshall out of an eighth-inning jam.
Fernandez was brought in to pitch with runners on first and second and one out in the ninth. After hitting the first batter, the senior settled down to retire the next two and escape the inning with the bases loaded.
Josh King (2-5) suffered the loss, giving up a one-out hit from Nick Schneeberger and the game-winner from Garner three batters later.
Mike Mason, in the final start of his Marshall career, received no decision. The senior allowed five runs on ten hits and a walk in 4.2 innings. The lefty struck out five, bringing his career count to 217 where it stands as fourth all-time at Marshall.
Mason received run support and was taken off the record when fellow senior Meeks missed a home run by only a few feet, doubling instead to tie the game at five.
The Herd began its comeback when Ballou walked and Dundon singled to lead off the sixth. The two took second and third on a balk, paving the way for Gomez's single to left to make it 5-2.
An inning later, Sergio Leon singled in the lead-off spot, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Stafford, then scored on a Meeks single up the middle. 5-3.
In the eighth, Gomez doubled and Alfredo Birto singled to put runners on the corners for Stafford. Stafford then singled to left, scoring one, and putting the tying run into scoring position.
Meeks hit his double off the wall in left on D.J. Ponder's first pitch of the game. The right-handed closer was brought in pick up his 12th save of the year, but rather took his second victory (2-0).
Ponder threw 3.1 innings, gave up three hits and two walks and did not strike out any hitters.
In fact, Marshall struck out only twice the whole game while its pitching staff fanned 14.
Ballou finished with an outstanding effort of 3-for-4 with three singles and two walks. The two walks gave him Marshall's single-season walks record (42) which was previously held by Josh Valle (41) from the 2009 season.
Dundon, Gomez, Brito, Leon, and Meeks all finished with two hits. Gomez and Meeks has two RBIs.
Game three of the series will begin Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.