Herd wins twice in extras, takes series


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After scoring four runs in the top of the 11th Sunday afternoon in Elon, North Carolina, Marshall baseball claimed its second-straight series victory with an 11-7 defeat of the Elon Phoenix in the rubber match of a three-game series. Marshall improved its overall record to 4-2, while Elon fell to 2-6.

“This team is exciting,” head coach Jeff Waggoner said. “They came back again tonight. To take a series win is a great job early in the year.”

Marshall won two out of its three weekend matchups in extra innings. In game one of the series, the Herd entered the ninth inning down 6-5. Marshall tied the game, though, when junior center fielder Erik Rodriguez scored from third off of a Shane Hanon groundout down the first base line.

The Herd contained Elon’s offense in the bottom of the ninth. Then, in the top of the tenth, Marshall’s offense struck for two more runs. After a pinch-hit single to left field, senior Will Ray scored the go-ahead run from first base off of Reynaldo Pastrana’s double to center field. The junior catcher advanced to third off of a Peter Hutzal groundout and, subsequently, scored the Herd’s eighth run when second basemen Geordan Blanton singled to right-center field.

“We came back four times in that game,” Waggoner said after Friday’s win. “Our guys never quit. It took everybody in the lineup and was a team effort. Everybody stepped up and did the job.”

Game two was a pitching duel, as neither team scored until the bottom of the sixth, when Elon designated hitter James Venuto hit a two-run home run over the right field wall. Marshall answered with a run of its own in the top of the seventh, as Hutzal drove in Dakota Robbins with a single to right field. Then, in the top of the ninth, Marshall threatened another comeback, as Pastrana singled to center field, scoring Tucker Linder. However, the Phoenix staved off Marshall’s comeback, and won the second game 3-2.

In game three, Marshall faced another late-game deficit. After a jumping out to a 6-1 lead, the Herd allowed three runs in both the seventh and eighth innings. Elon took a 7-6 lead heading into the ninth.

For the second time in the series, Marshall scored in the ninth to tie the game. The comeback commenced with an Andrew Zban leadoff double. Then, he advanced to third off of a Hanon infield single and scored the game-tying run when Pastrana hit a sacrifice fly to left-center. The game remained tied and headed to extra innings.

In the tenth inning, neither team scored and Marshall left two men on base as Robbins and Zban both walked.

In the 11th, Marshall took a four-run lead, propelling it to an 11-7 victory. Third baseman Raul Cabrera and catcher Pastrana started the inning with consecutive singles to left field. Then, with no outs and runners on first and second, Linder laid down a sacrifice bunt, advancing Cabrera to third and Pastrana to second. After an Elon pitching change, Ray drove in both runners with a double down the right field line. The Herd took a 9-7 lead.

In the next at-bat, Ray scored from second with a Hutzal single. Later in the inning, Hutzal scored Marshall’s 11th and final run. He stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a throwing error by Elon catcher Matt Oldham.

Pastrana led Marshall’s offense in game three. The junior catcher went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and four RBI’s.

“Rey (Pastrana) is one of our leaders,” Waggoner said. “Rey had great at-bats today, but, more importantly, did a great job with the pitching staff and helping us win.”

Will Ray was Marshall’s starting pitcher and designated hitter for game three. On the mound, he went six innings, allowing 2 hits and one earned run in the no-decision. At the plate, he went 2-for-6 with two RBI. Through his first two starts this season, Ray has 0.84 ERA and a .429 batting average.

“Will came out and (was a) bulldog,” Waggoner said. “That’s what we want out of our Sunday starter. He threw a lot of strikes and competed. That’s what we expect out of him.”

Senior relief pitcher Gordon Cardenas earned the win, pitching 3 1/3 innings of shutout ball with four strikeouts. Cardenas has yet to allow a run in eight innings of relief this season.

“(The win) shows the team’s heart and how much they battle,” Waggoner said. “It took everybody to win today and we beat a good team.”

The Herd travels to Boone, North Carolina this weekend for a three-game set with the Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-4).

Rick Farlow can be contacted at [email protected]