CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A tough second inning saddled Marshall pitcher Michael Taylor with a loss in his Conference USA debut Saturday night, but his coach sees nothing but a bright future out of him.
Hampered by an error and two walks, the St. Albans native gave up five runs in that frame, allowing Alabama-Birmingham to take a 5-1 lead en route to a 12-4 victory.
That gave UAB (12-15, 2-4) a split of the doubleheader Saturday - Marshall won the opener 3-1 - and allowed the Blazers to win two in the three-game series. It was the 12th straight C-USA series loss for the Thundering Herd (11-15, 1-2), which hasn't won such a set since the middle of the 2011 season.
Taylor (3-2) received the loss but not nearly all the blame. Coach Jeff Waggoner hung with the 6-foot-6 freshman through five innings, and he gave up six runs - three unearned - on just five hits. His earned-run average climbed from a daunting 1.45 to a still-very-good 2.28.
"He's got the right mentality when he goes out there. He's aggressive and attacks guys," Waggoner said.
He pitched like that right away in high school, putting up impressive numbers in his freshman season of 2008 at St. Albans - 6-1, 3.41 ERA, 63 strikeouts in 362/3 innings.
But he had off-field problems and his life took a detour to Christchurch School, a private college-prep boarding school an hour east of Richmond, Va. MU football fans may know another Christchurch alum, football offensive lineman Josh Lovell.
The small-school atmosphere, discipline and rigorous curriculum did wonders.
"Honestly, it was a little bit of trouble. Rough patch in my life," Taylor said. "Honestly, I got to college and the work was easier. It was a time when you needed to get away; it was the right move for me."
Taylor is the only West Virginian who has hit the field for the Herd this season. The other state native on the roster is freshman infielder Steven Lewis, a Capital High grad.
"They saw me play a couple of times, and they made me a good offer, close to home," Taylor said. "It wasn't really a major decision, I guess you could say, I just wanted to be close to home; my family hadn't seen me play for three years. It was just good getting back."
"Michael's a kid we were on for a long time, maybe his sophomore year," Waggoner said. "He's a kid we wanted in the program because of his makeup and the person he is, and his talent. He's going to have a great future in this game if he keeps working."