After one of the coldest, rainiest, strangest nights in Marshall’s history at Appalachian Power Park, the Thundering Herd needed its bullpen to settle down.
Matt Reed and Will Ray showed the way Sunday afternoon, as the Herd downed Texas-San Antonio 3-2 to win its first Conference USA series of the season two games to one.
Reed (3-1) let a 1-0 lead slip away, but stuck around to get the win after MU (10-7, 2-1 C-USA) scored twice to retake the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Ray, summoned from second base, pitched a six-out save.
To illustrate how important those performances were, along with the six innings from starter Patrick Murphy, consider the team’s doubleheader split Saturday.
UTSA took the opener 4-2, but the Herd knocked around the Roadrunners in the nightcap, taking a 12-1 lead into the ninth. But as the night turned colder and the rains blew across the ballpark, UTSA scored 10 runs before Tyler Ratliff finally got the third out — with the tying run on third, of course.
Ratliff, who starts at third base but owns three saves, was the fifth MU pitcher used in that inning. The Roadrunners had only four hits, scoring runs on two bases-loaded hit-by-pitches, two bases-loaded walks and a balk with a runner on third base. There was a third walk, a third hit-by-pitch and an error to compound matters.
Fortunately for the Herd, such nonsense was not repeated Sunday.
“It was a crazy game yesterday, and it was one of those games where it got out of hand there in the last,” said MU coach Jeff Waggoner. “Rainy, cold night where you’re up 11 runs and trying to get some guys a little work.
“We pulled out the win and had a good team win today, and everybody stepped up to do their part.”
The Herd took a 1-0 lead in the fourth with a Sam Finfer single, a Ratliff double and Reynaldo Pastrana’s RBI grounder to second base. Meanwhile, Murphy walked none and struck out five through six innings, but was removed after giving up two singles to start the UTSA seventh.
Reed entered, and immediately walked the bases loaded. C.J. Pickering doubled in two runs with one out to give UTSA (9-9, 1-2) a 2-1 lead.
Marshall answered with two in the bottom of the seventh, on a Shane Hanon single and Ray’s slow grounder to second, scoring Pastrana and Andrew Zban, respectively. Pastrana opened the inning with a single and moved to second on a throwing error on Zban’s bunt.
Ray was brought in from second to pitch the final two innings. He gave up no hits, walked a batter in the eighth and struck out two in the ninth.
“It’s not too uncommon. That’s my first time in relief this year; I had one start,” he said. “That’s something we work on, we’re all pretty versatile. Sam Finfer had to move to second, did a great job there.”
This week, Marshall heads to Tennessee for a game Wednesday, before heading to Southern Mississippi for a three-game C-USA series. MU returns to Appalachian Power Park on March 31-April 2, taking on Middle Tennessee.