With fog creeping in and temperatures in the upper 30s, no one really wanted to see Marshall squander another ninth-inning lead.
That includes Thundering Herd coach Jeff Waggoner, although he was more concerned with his team’s makeup than the atrocious weather.
Leading 6-1 in the ninth, Marshall again made things interesting. This time, however, the Herd was able to close the deal and hold on for a 6-4 win over Central Michigan to salvage the final game of a four-game series Sunday at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley.
The win came a day after Marshall (8-10) led the Chippewas 8-7 in the last inning but lost 10-8 after a key two-run error by closer Matt Margaritonda. Marshall starting pitcher Michael Taylor and three relievers held Central Michigan to an unearned run and four hits through the first eight innings.
“It was a good win,” Waggoner said. “I was proud of them for the way they bounced back (from Saturday’s loss). That gives us a little momentum going into Tuesday’s game.”
Taylor (2-1), a true freshman, braved the elements and a strong-hitting Central Michigan team to help get the Herd back on track going into Tuesday’s game with West Virginia. A St. Albans native who moved to Christchurch (Va.) High for his last two, Taylor struck out seven and walked one in five innings of three-hit ball.
He threw 90 pitches on the cold day, 58 for strikes, and lowered his earned run average to 0.71.
“He’s been getting stronger and stronger every outing,” Waggoner said. “He threw strikes and his secondary was good. He gave us a chance to win the game.”
Aaron Bossi, an .053 hitter going in, hit a two-run homer to left in the second to put Marshall ahead 3-0.
Had the score stayed there, Central Michigan coach Steve Jaksa was more comfortable with his team’s chances of coming back. But Marshall, wearing green jerseys on St. Patrick’s Day, added a run in the fourth and two in the sixth to go ahead 6-0.
“We couldn’t figure out their starter very well,” Jaksa said. “We had three chances with runners in scoring position in the first three innings and he settled in. We didn’t do much for the next couple (innings). The big three (runs) were the second three we gave up, as always. You try to keep that game close because you always think you are going to get an opportunity to make a run at (the opponent), which we did.”
Indeed, the ninth inning went longer than anyone not playing or cheering for the Chippewas would have liked.
With Marshall ahead 6-1, sophomore Kolin Stanley got Neal Jacobs on a comebacker to start the inning. But he walked Noel Santos on four pitches and hit Tyler Huntey on a 3-0 count, and Santos scored on Tom Lally’s double to left.
Huntey came across on a wild pitch and Lally scored on a single by Logan Regnier to make it a 6-4 game.
After Stanley struck out Pat MacKenzie, he hit Nick Regnier. The Regnier brothers advanced to second and third on a passed ball, putting the tying run in scoring position.
Finally, Stanley — who graduated from the same high school as Waggoner — struck out Zack Fields swinging to end the game. A relieved Stanley, who threw 35 pitches in the inning, threw his glove across the third baseline after it was over.
Waggoner had left-hander Sam Hunter warming up, but with a taxed bullpen and Hunter’s inexperience — the true freshman has faced six batters in two appearances — decided to stick with Stanley.
“We’ve got to go with Kolin there against the two righties coming up,” Waggoner said. “The only (pitcher) we have left is a lefty who hasn’t pitched that much.”
Marshall will face WVU at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Appalachian Power Park. Aaron Blair (2-1, 3.57 ERA) will start for the Herd.
The state’s two biggest universities have not played each other in baseball since 2008, Waggoner’s second season in Huntington. The Herd scored two runs in the ninth inning, but the Mountaineers held on for a 5-3 win at the BB&T Coastal Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
It will be their first meeting in the Mountain State since 1998.
They will also play April 2 in Morgantown and then Tuesday, May 14, at Epling Stadium. Both games will start at 6 p.m.
Marshall’s next game in Beckley will be Wednesday, April 24, against Ohio. First pitch will be 3 p.m.
— E-mail: gfauber
CMU: 000 000 103 — 4 6 1
MU: 120 102 00x — 6 14 5
CMU: Rick Dodridge, Taylor Lehnert (4), Joe Ucho (7), Blake Louscher (8) and Tyler Huntey, MU: Michael Taylor, Matt Hummel (6), Terrence Moore (7), Kyle Kessler (8), Kolin Stanley (9) and David Diaz-Fernandez. WP — Taylor. LP — Dodridge. Hitting — CMU: Logan Regnier 2-3 (rbi), Pat MacKenzie 1-4, Nick Regnier 1-4, Zack Fields 1-4, Tom Lally 1-4 (2b, 2 runs, rbi), MU: Isaac Ballou 2-4, Andrew Dundon 1-2 (2 rbi), Gray Stafford 2-3 (2 rbi), Eric Escobedo 1-4, Aaron Bossi 2-3 (hr, 2 rbi), Alfredo Brito 2-3, Diaz-Fernandez 1-4, Sergio Leon 3-4.
Records: CMU: 9-10; MU: 8-10.