The Morehead City Marlins used a three-run eighth inning to break a three-all tie against Wilson on Friday, and take their second win of the season against the Tobs by a score of 6-4. The three runs came off the bats of Blake Graham and Nick Lombardi, who took advantage of tiring Wilson starter Braden Bristo late in the ballgame.
Graham, who had already singled and doubled in the contest, came up with two runners on and one out in the eighth against, and broke the tie. On the third pitch of the at-bat, and 137th pitch of the night for Bristo, Graham was able to ground a base hit into center field to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead.
Graham, who entered the game with a .283 average, finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and two stolen bases. His batting average was raised all the way up to .308—good for second on the team among players with 35 at bats or more—and he is now second on the team in stolen bases.
"He threw me a first pitch fastball in, I took it because I couldn't have done much with it," Graham said. "Then after he missed with an off-speed, he threw me another fastball and I put a good swing on it."
Graham's single was immediately followed by a stolen base, and then a two-RBI double from Lombardi that was grounded just fair down the line in left, giving the Marlins some insurance. Lombardi was 2-for-3 on the day with a season-high four RBI. In his last two games, the Dartmouth product is 3-for-6 with two doubles and six RBI.
"I thought the whole sequence was huge for us," said Marlins' head coach Sam Carel. "We had first and third there, and were able to steal second immediately. That was just as huge as Lombardi coming through with the hit. That was just a huge inning."
Tyler Thorne tossed five innings and allowed just one hit while striking out seven for Morehead City, including three strikeouts in his fifth and final inning of work. It was the first time he has thrown five innings since his second start of the season for Stanford on March 4, and the first time he has struck out more than four all season, in either the CPL or in NCAA play.
Thorne did work himself into some challenging spots in the ballgame, including three separate innings with runners in scoring position, but came up with the big pitch when he needed it.
"I felt good," Thorne said. "The fastball command was a little shaky at times today but the changeup, curveball and slider felt good. I need to get ahead with the fastball more that would help out with some of those walks."
The Tobs' three runs came in the sixth inning of Chris Viall, who allowed all four base runners he faced to reach in his Marlins' debut.
But Logan Hershenow, who has seen himself placed in high leverage situations all season, came in and mopped up the damage in the sixth. He secured the final three outs without allowing the go-ahead run to cross, then worked a scoreless seventh and eighth. Hershenow has pitched in a team-high 13 games this season, and in his last eight games has tossed 14.2 innings and allowed just two earned runs while striking out 13.
"That is why we brought him in here, to perform many different roles," Carel said. "The last couple games he has had to come in there in that fifth, sixth inning and stretch us out to be a bridge to our closer. He has done a phenomenal job."
Casey Eskew closed out the game for the Marlins, picking up his third save of the season. He had the winning run on first, but was able to battle and secure the win.
"Casey came in and was throwing some strikes," Thorne said. "It was a bit scary at the end but he got through it."
"That was a game that two weeks ago this team would have found a way to lose," Carel said. "This team found a way tonight—with all the things that went against them—to win. That is the mark of a winning team there."
With the win, Morehead City improves to 2-0 in the second half, and they have won five of the last seven games overall. In those five wins, they have outscored opponents 51-12. Friday also marked the third straight double-digit hit game for the Marlins.
"It was a big win on the road," Graham said. "A good team win to get something going to make it three wins in a row."
Morehead City will hit the road again on Saturday as they travel to J.P Riddle Stadium to take on the Fayetteville Swampdogs. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.
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