March 27, 2011
CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- In a series of pitchers' duels between UAB and Marshall, Sunday's rubber match was the lowest-scoring of all. The Blazers and Thundering Herd battled for 14 innings before UAB finally emerged with a 2-1 win at Appalachian Power Park.
Ryan Nance drove in both Blazer runs -- one in the fourth and the eventual game-winner in the 14th -- and also earned the save as UAB (13-10, 2-1 C-USA) opened Conference USA play with a series victory over Marshall (9-13, 1-2 C-USA).
UAB tied a school record with 17 combined strikeouts among its four pitchers, and the Blazers played their longest game since a 15-inning win at Memphis on April 19, 2002.
Despite opportunities for both teams, neither side had managed to score since the fourth inning when UAB came to the plate in the top of the 14th. Patrick Palmeiro drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a Marshall error. Nance then singled to left field, scoring Palmeiro from third to give the Blazers their first lead of the game.
Nance then came in from his left field position to pitch with one runner on and no outs in the bottom of the 14th, getting the first out on a sacrifice bunt and then striking out the next two batters to close out the win and pick up his sixth save.
UAB utilized four pitchers in the game -- Michael Busby, Blake Huddleston, Ben Bullard and Nance -- and the group allowed just one run, including none after the third inning, on 11 hits. Busby turned in his best start of the year, giving up just one run on three hits with six strikeouts in six frames. Huddleston fanned a career-high seven batters in four innings, and Bullard tossed three scoreless frames.
"Our pitchers were just a hair better than theirs today," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "We also played well defensively, going 14 innings without an error. They made two errors, and the last one led to our winning run."
Marshall scored its only run in the third inning on an RBI double from Victor Ramos, and UAB answered in the next inning when Nance scored Palmeiro for the first time with an RBI single to knot the game at 1-1.
UAB's next good scoring opportunity came in the eighth with runners at first and third and no outs, but the Blazers couldn't get any runs across.
Marshall had serious chances to win the game in both the ninth and 10th innings. With runners on second and third and one out in the ninth, the Thundering Herd was unable to execute a suicide squeeze play when Justin Maynard bunted through a Huddleston breaking ball. Both runners broke with the pitch and were thrown out on the play.
One inning later, Marshall loaded the bases with two outs, but Huddleston fanned Rhett Stafford for his third strikeout of the inning to extend the game again.
The Herd squandered another scoring chance in the 13th after a leadoff double from James Lavinskas. Lavinskas, the potential winning run, came halfway around third on a single by Rhett Stafford and was caught trying to get back after a good throw home by UAB right fielder Ryan Ussery. That kept the game tied before UAB finally broke through in the next inning.
Bullard earned his third win of the season for the Blazers, while Joe Church suffered the loss after giving up the final run. Church was the fifth Marshall pitcher of the game. Thundering Herd starter Arik Sikula allowed one run in seven innings, while Ian Kadish tossed 4.2 innings of scoreless relief.
Jamal Austin led all players with a 3-for-6 effort at the plate, while Palmeiro, Nance and Keith DePew also logged multiple hits for the Blazers. Ramos, Stafford, Isaac Ballou and Kenny Socorro each had a pair of hits for Marshall.
Pitching was the story of the entire three-game series. The teams combined for 30 strikeouts on Sunday and 64 in the series. Offensively, the teams scored a combined total of 13 runs over the three games with neither team managing more than three runs in a single contest.