The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

May 15, 2013

Bragging rights go to Marshall

Brito’s double leads Herd to 6-5 victory over WVU

BECKLEY — Hitting .200 and with 25 strikeouts in 105 at-bats, this hasn’t been the greatest of senior seasons for Alfredo Brito.

Things picked up in a big way Tuesday.

Brito’s two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning highlighted Marshall’s three-run rally, and the Thundering Herd earned year-long bragging rights with a 6-5 win over West Virginia at Beckley’s Linda K. Epling Stadium.

Marshall (20-31) earned a series win over the Mountaineers, taking two of three from its in-state rival. When the teams met March 19 in Charleston — an 8-0 Marshall win — it was the first time they played since a Myrtle Beach tournament in 2008, and the first within state borders since 1998.

The Mountaineers’ 10-2 win April 2 in Morgantown set up the rubber game, which was witnessed by a series-high crowd of 2,103.

Brito, perhaps the unlikeliest of sources, made it a happy night for Herd fans.

Trailing 5-3 in the seventh, Marshall loaded the bases when Andrew Dundon hit a leadoff double, Gray Stafford walked and Isaac Ballou laced a single just over the head of WVU shortstop Michael Constantini. A sacrifice fly to left field by Nathan Gomez scored Dundon to make it 5-4.

Eric Escobedo struck out looking for the second out, but Stafford and Ballou both moved up on stolen bases.

That’s when Brito delivered, sending a 2-1 pitch from reliever Josh Harlow to the gap in right center for the tying and go-ahead runs.

“He got it in there enough where I thought I had it,” said Brito, who pumped his fists after pulling into second. “It was just a big hit in a big moment. It felt great, especially after struggling the way I have been this year. It’s all about just staying with it. It’s been hard, but (the hit) felt great.”

“Alfredo struggled early in the season but he stayed mentally locked in and he believes in himself,” Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said. “He’s been a great hitter since he has been here. I knew he would come along. He’s taking better swings. I’m glad it happened for him — a senior that has been here five years. And what a big-time hit that was. That was a great at-bat. Couldn’t happen to a better kid.”

West Virginia (30-23) chased Marshall starter Alex Thackston with a three-run second, but five Herd relievers combined for eight innings of one-run baseball.

Ryan Hopkins (4-2) got the win after facing just one batter, relieving Michael Taylor with a runner on second in the seventh. Matt Hummel threw a perfect eighth, then Josh King did the same in the ninth for his team-leading sixth save.

“It wasn’t actually their bullpen. They ran their weekend starters out there,” first-year WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “But that’s what they do. Their weekend starters always pitch against us, and they pitched better than we did.”

Taylor and Chase Boster, who replaced Thackston in the second, have weekend starting experience, but Waggoner said the pitchers he used will be sent to the bullpen for the regular season-ending series at Rice that starts Thursday.

“They did a great job of coming in and keeping us right there in the game,” Waggoner said.

Mazey elected not to play several of his starters, including outfielders Jacob Rice, who is hitting .327, and Brady Wilson and catcher Alan Filauro. WVU plays its home Big 12 series at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, and Mazey was concerned fatigue is setting in.

“Travel has been a problem all season, and I thought last week that maybe it started to wear on us a little bit,” Mazey said. “In the interest of trying to win our conference, we went with rest. Not saying that’s why we didn’t win the game. But, yeah, we only brought about 10 (position) players and five pitchers on the trip.”

The lesser-used players made their presence known.

Chris Rasky, an .087 hitter going in, got the Mountaineers’ three-run second inning started when he singled to right, then went to second on a throwing error by Stafford. After Constantini walked, catcher Max Nogay bunted to the left side of the infield. Thackston tried to force Rasky at third but was late with the throw.

Kevin Cohen was hit by a pitch to drive in Rasky. Billy Fleming ran a 2-0 count on Thackston before Waggoner brought in Boster. Fleming then doubled to drive in Constantini and Nogay for a 4-1 lead, but Cohen was gunned down at third.

Each team scored single runs in their half of the first. Marshall got a run in the third and another in the fifth to pull to within 4-3.

WVU got a run in the seventh when Ryan McBroom singled and scored on Rasky’s two-out double.

Harlow (0-2) took the loss. He gave up all three Herd runs in the seventh and allowed three hits in 1 2/3 innings.

The Mountaineers, tied for second in the Big 12, start a three-game series at Oklahoma State on Thursday. Marshall will go to Rice clinging to a one-game lead over UAB for the eighth spot in the Conference USA standings.

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