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Blair and King Shutout UCF, 6-0

Aaron Blair and Josh King combined to throw the first nine-inning shutout for the Marshall University baseball team since last season and Victor Gomez and Rhett Stafford knocked in five of the six runs as the Thundering Herd blanked the UCF Knights, 6-0 at Jay Bergman Field on Thursday night.

Marshall (20-29, 7-15 C-USA) roped out nine hits as a club, three coming from Rhett Stafford who finished a perfect 3-for-3 with two RBI including a solo blast and walk on the night. Leadoff hitter Victor Ramos added two singles and scored twice to do his job as a table setter for the Herd.

V.Gomez not only set the school record for doubles with his 47th of his career but also played in his record setting 215th career game, surpassing Josh Valle (2007-10) who made his way into the lineup 214 times. The Miami, Fla., native finished 2-for-3 with three RBI in the victory.

Beyond the record setting day from V.Gomez was the pitching performance of freshman flame thrower Aaron Blair. The tall righty sliced and diced through six innings of work on the bump, equaling a career-high. Blair scattered three hits, all singles and did not allow a base runner to reach past second. He tied a career-high by fanning six, five of which were swinging, while walking four. Of the 26 batters Blair faced, he hummed in first strikes to 14 of them.

In just his first year with the Herd, Blair has been outstanding over his last four appearances totaling 21.2 innings with 20 strikeouts and allowing only three earned runs.

Fellow freshman Josh King chucked the final three frames, giving up one single and striking out a batter to earn his second save of his career. Blair and King did not allow a Knight runner to reach past second on the evening, scattering four singles. 

MU took little time putting UCF (34-20, 10-12) starter Brian Adkins (6-4) in trouble as a Kenny Socorro single was sandwiched around two walks to load the bases with one down. V.Gomez, the all-time leader in RBI in school history, promptly laced a ball to right field for a sac fly to bring home the first run of the contest. Adkins would escape without further damage.

Following a three-up-three-down second stanza, the Herd offense decided to bust out the whooping stick in the third. Consecutive singles from Ramos and Isaac Ballou and an errant pitch that plunked Socorro loaded the bases for cleanup hitter R.Stafford. The leading RBI man for the Herd offense roped an infield single off the chest of the UCF third baseman to bring a run home. V.Gomez followed up a double to left to plate two more Herd base runners and later Gray Stafford brought home the fourth run of the inning on a ground out to take a 5-0 lead.

The double from V.Gomez marked the 47th of his career, setting the school record and surpassing Eric Pinkerton (1998-00) on the all-time list at Marshall.

In the fifth, R.Stafford won the team race to double digits in homers, as the junior launched a one-out full-count deep fly to left for his 10th jack of the season. It marked the 20th blast of his career with the Herd. V.Gomez continued his strong day at the plate with a two-strike single back through the box to knock out Adkins from the game. 

Adkins final line included 4.1 innings pitched, six runs (all earned) off seven hits with a pair of strikeouts and free passes. The run and earned run totals were the highest for Adkins in 2011.
Both teams were kept off the scoreboard for the rest of the night, as Marshall produced its second shutout of the season. The first came in a seven-inning affair in the first game of a doubleheader against Coppin State in Beckley on April 13.
The middle game of the series is slated for Friday at 6:30 p.m.

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