CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall may have resurrected its baseball season Friday afternoon at Appalachian Power Park.
Sergio Leon clouted a three-run homer and a two-run double as the Thundering Herd won in most improbable fashion, rallying from an early nine-run deficit to beat both the clock and nationally ranked Houston 19-13 in a four-hour, 18-minute marathon to open a three-game Conference USA weekend series.
Leon drove in six runs in all, while Herd teammates Nathan Gomez, Eric Escobedo and Johnathan Beary had three RBIs apiece as Marshall (12-17, 2-2) broke a three-game losing streak.
After falling behind 13-4 in the top of the fourth inning, the Herd blanked the country's No. 19 team the rest of the way and scored the game's final 15 runs, including a seven-spot in the fourth and six more in the fifth.
"I'm just really proud of the team, the way we responded and didn't quit,'' said Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner. "We faced some adversity and the guys were able to respond, keep their heads up and stay in the game. You've got to be proud of that, especially on Friday to begin the series.''
Kolin Stanley picked up the win with 22/3 innings of relief, with Matt Margaritonda following with 31/3 scoreless innings and Josh King closing it out on a pair of strikeouts with the bases loaded.
The Herd came into the game averaging a modest 4.6 runs and 8.7 hits, but blew those numbers out of the water with season-highs in runs and hits (21) against the Cougars (23-8, 5-2), who came into the game leading C-USA and owning a 20-5 all-time series lead against Marshall.
In fact, Marshall had managed just 18 runs in its previous six games this season, five of which were losses.
"We just came in ready to win. We had that fire,'' Leon said. "It's like Coach said. It's one big inning, that's all that really matters. We had that one big inning, and look what happened. We ended up winning the game.''
For a while, it looked like Marshall might not be able to ride that wave of midgame momentum all the way through. In the seventh inning, with the game already more than three hours old, umpires and both coaches had a discussion with West Virginia Power officials about the South Atlantic League game that was set to follow. It was decided that if Marshall-Houston wasn't completed by 7 p.m., it would be suspended and completed today at Power Park. They beat the deadline, however, with a half-hour to spare.
Adding to the degree of difficulty, the Herd staged its comeback against one of the league's hottest pitchers, junior right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon. He was recently honored as the C-USA co-pitcher of the week after throwing a complete-game five-hitter in a 3-1 win over Memphis with eight strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs. It marked his fourth straight victory.