By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Marshall has proven this weekend to be a late-inning team.
Trailing 2-0 most of the game, the Thundering Herd tied it in the seventh inning and then broke it open with a five-run eighth to beat Florida Atlantic 7-3 Saturday to lock up its third Conference USA series win of the season.
FAU has been one of the toughest teams in the nation to beat once it gets ahead. Saturday was the first time this season the Owls had lost when leading after three innings.
Since coach John McCormack took over the program in 2009, FAU is 146-4 when leading after seven. This one was tied at 2-2 going to the eighth, but a huge defensive collapse — the Owls committed errors on four straight Marshall at-bats — would have added a fifth blemish to that mark.
Andrew Dundon singled to lead off and stole second, but Chase Vogelbach and Eric Escobedo struck out. T.J. Diffendorfer walked, and Aaron Bossi then lined a 1-0 pitch to left. The ball got past Tyler Rocklein, allowing Dundon, who was being waved home, to score easily and Diffendorfer to score from first and put the Herd up 4-2.
Bossi, who went to third on the play, scored the fifth run when Matt Reed reached on a throwing error.
The next play was the strangest and probably most memorable of the game.
Robert Fajardo, whose two-run double tied the game in the seventh, singled to center field. The ball got past Billy Endris, who stood incredulously as the ball rolled all the way to the wall. As Rocklein fielded the ball, Reed scored easily and Fajardo came all the way around on a three-base error and 7-2 Marshall lead.
“Our team has a lot of fight in the late innings,” said Bossi, who led off the seventh with a one-out single. “It was good for us to finally come through with runners on base and in scoring position.”
“We talk about dominating the sixth inning on,” Herd coach Jeff Waggoner said. “These guys did a good job of staying positive and putting ourselves in good situations to win the game.”
Marshall (11-17, 7-6 C-USA) did most of its damage in the eighth off Kevin Alexander, the Owls’ leader in wins (3) and saves (4), although Dundon’s run was charged to Bo Logan, who was taggged with the loss.
An RBI double by Ricky Santiago and run-scoring single by Estebana Puerta off Herd starter Matt Margaritonda gave FAU (16-14, 4-10) a 2-0 lead in the second. Marshall pitchers clamped down from there.
Kolin Stanley, who will begin his third season with the West Virginia Miners this summer, relieved Margaritonda in the eighth and struck out both batters he faced.
Caleb Ross took over Stanley and struck out Robert Buckley to close out the eighth and was credited with the win.
Marshall will go for the sweep at noon today. Josh King (2-2, 2.60) will take the mound opposite Drew Jackson (3-0, 2.25) for FAU.
“We can’t settle for this,” Waggoner said. “We’ve got to come out ready to go (today) and be at our best.”
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.
By Gary Fauber
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