HUNTINGTON — The Marshall baseball team suffered a 9-3 setback in the series opener of its three-game set against Niagara on Thursday afternoon at the YMCA Kennedy Center’s George Smailes Field. The loss snapped Marshall’s five-game win streak as it moves to 6-6 overall. The Purple Eagles improve to 7-5.
Marshall was led at the plate by catcher Sam Finfer, third baseman Tyler Ratliff, and center fielder Shane Hanon. Finer was 2-for-4 with a home run (fifth of the season), one run batted in and two runs scored. Ratliff was 1-for-4 with two RBIs, hitting his third home run of the year. Hanon earned his first multi-hit game of the season with two singles.
Finfer is now leading the Herd in hitting. He is 16-of-39 for a .410 averaged in 10 games. His five home runs and 17 RBI lead the Herd. Ratliff has raised his average to .304, and leads the Herd with five doubles, has three home runs and 13 RBI. Will Ray (.333) and Billy Sager (.300) join Finfer and Ratliff in hitting over .300 this season.
The scoring began in the top of the first inning as Niagara’s Philippe Langlois hit a single to right field that drove in Joel Brophy. Marshall responded in the bottom half of the frame. After a Finfer single to left, Ratliff hit a two-run homer over the right-center fence to put Marshall ahead, 2-1.
Niagara went on to take the lead, 3-2, in the top of the fifth inning. Greg Cullen reached on an infield hit, then came around to score from first on a Peter Battaglia double down the left field line. Later in the inning, Battaglia scored off of a Trevor McCauley single through the right side.
Once again the Thundering Herd was quick to answer its deficit in the bottom half of the inning. Finfer tied the game at three with a solo home run that went into the parking lot beyond the right field fence. It was Finfer’s team-high fifth homer of the season and team-high 17th RBI.
Niagara regained the lead in the seventh inning. Battaglia singled to left and drove in Cullen, giving the Purple Eagles a 4-3 advantage. Niagara took control of the contest in the eighth inning by scoring four runs on one hit. After two walks and an error on the Herd, Cullen hit a grand slam over the center field wall to give the Purple Eagles an 8-3 lead. The Purple Eagles tacked on one more run in the top of the ninth off a double to left field.
On the mound, Marshall starting pitcher Wade Martin (2.89 ERA) went five innings with five strikeouts. The sophomore allowed three runs on nine hits and walked two batters, and he leads the Herd with four starts, 21 strikeouts and 11 walks allowed, holding opposing teams to a .257 average.
Hunter Sexton and Jacob Niggemeyer came in relief for Martin. Sexton picked up his first loss (1-1) by surrendering five runs (4 earned) on two hits through 2.1 innings, walked two and struck out three. Niggemeyer pitched 1.2 innings with three strikeouts, allowing only one earned run
Marshall returns to the YMCA Kennedy Center on Route 2 north of Huntington on Friday at 2 p.m. for game two against the Niagara. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Joshua Shapiro is scheduled to get the start. He is 1-1 this season, with a 4.35 earned run average, with five walks and nine Ks.