Marshall's Andrew Dundon pulls back from an inside pitch that hit his bat for a foul ball against UAB.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After some poor early spring weather, it was a good Good Friday for baseball in Charleston - although the result was anything but for Marshall.Alabama-Birmingham struck for six runs in the first two innings and kept tacking on to the early lead for a 10-6 win in the first game of a three-game set Friday at Appalachian Power Park in the Thundering Herd's Conference USA season opener.Marshall battled back, answering UAB's first-inning two spot with four runs in the bottom, but while Marshall cooled off a bit afterward, the Blazers just kept rolling.The Herd (10-14 overall, 0-1 Conference USA) committed two errors and yielded nine walks.
"We just weren't attacking the zone," Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said of his pitchers. "We were too fine when we got ahead in the count and were afraid to pitch to contact in situations and it led to walks."Herd Starter Chase Boster yielded seven runs (five earned) in his four innings on seven hits and three walks while striking out two in taking the loss."That sets the tone," Waggoner said of UAB's hot start. "You want your No. 1 to come out and perform a little better. He was up in the zone. We know he's a lot better than that and we expect him to be better the next time out."Marshall's brief lead after a four-run bottom of the first came on the power of a three-run double from Eric Escobedo, who led the Marshall offense with two hits and the three RBIs while Matt Kirkwood added two hits with a double."I knew the bases were loaded and I just wanted to get a couple of runs in and I was able to do that," Escobedo said. "I squared the ball up pretty well and the whole thing is about scoring runs and helping this team win."
While Escobedo's double was a big hit for Marshall at the time, the Blazers' bats were humming from the beginning. Leadoff man Ivan DeJesus smoked a homer to right field to start the game and Ryan Pinzing added his own solo shot to right just three batters later.After Marshall's outburst, UAB answered quickly in the top of the second as a bases-loaded walk to DeJesus and a Tyler Mims two-run single highlighted a four-run inning that put the Blazers up 6-4 after just an inning and a half. UAB (11-15, 1-3) was never in real danger again in earning its first Conference USA win of the season.The top of the lineup told the story for both sides as UAB's 1-through-4 hitters combined for seven hits, seven runs scored, and five RBIs while Marshall's first four batters totaled just two hits."We had opportunities early in the game and our offense could've put up more runs," Waggoner said. "We rolled over with runners in scoring position and didn't get the job done there either. From both ends, we didn't play our best. The great thing is, that's game one and there's two more and it's about winning the series. We've got to come out [today] and play to our ability."Chase Mallard picked up the win in relief for the Blazers, tossing the final 71/3 innings and giving up just one run on five hits and two walks while striking out five. Starter Tanner Bryant was tagged for five runs on three hits and three walks in 12/3 innings.The original schedule called for single games today and Sunday, but the Herd and UAB will play a doubleheader today due to forecasts of foul weather on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.
While the Herd staff as a whole may have struggled on Friday, the numbers would point to better pitching in both games of a doubleheader today. Staff ace Aaron Blair (3-1, 2.83 ERA) will get the ball for the first game today and freshman Michael Taylor (3-1, 1.45 ERA) will start the second game."They're going to go out and give us everything they've got and compete," Waggoner said. "They'll give us an opportunity to win the game and that's all you can ask for.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.