Marshall last did that in 1998, winning the last two games of a four-game series with Ohio, in the first year back in the MAC. The other two-game winning streak came in 1979, when the Herd swept a season series from Ohio for the only time in the Marshall records (which start in 1957, although there is little doubt, the Marshall teams that won three consecutive Buckeye Conference titles in 1933-34-35 probably won two or three in row from Ohio, also in the Buckeye). On Sunday, Marshall can post another first: no Marshall team has ever won three in a row from Ohio in at least the last 50 years.
Saturday's heroes are many. First, senior reliever Steve Ziroli pitched like a major leaguer for the second day in a row. After holding Ohio scoreless in three and two-thirds innings on Friday, Ziroli pitched five and one-third innings of three-hit, no-run baseball to pick up his second win of the year, basically throwing nine innings over two days. "I'm just ready to go, it's up to coach when it is time to go," said Ziroli. " I knew we would score runs. I just had to hold them at five until we got it going on offense. I didn't' have a great fastball today, because of throwing yesterday, so it was a lot of junk. I went to slider and change-up all day."
Herd pitching coach Tom Carty was happy with the effort of Ziroli (2-1), the senior from LaGrange, Illinois. "He keep his pitch count down yesterday, only about 30 pitches over his outing," said Carty. "Everyday, I go around to the relievers to see how they are feeling and if my senior tells me he feels good, I take his word. I thought he'd be good for two or three innings, tops, but he said he felt good at the end of every inning. He may have lied to me about feeling good in the eighth (when Chris Cummings came in to close out the inning), but I want a competitor. He got two quick outs and maybe ran out of gas, but he made a great defensive play and then Koit made a great play and then we went to Chris, who has done a great job this year, too."
The offensive heroes are the same and different, so to speak. Senior Francois Larmore is nursing a groin strain and a broken finger on his left hand, so the offensive sparkplug for the Herd is playing designated hitter and sophomore Brad Helm is getting a chance to take Larmore's place in left field. Helm had three walks on Friday, but Saturday was even better. Helm tripled in the sixth inning to drive in two in a four-run inning for Marshall, set up by a two-out throwing error by Ohio third baseman Brian Colopy. Helm then scored on a double by shortstop Mike Koitsopoulos and he was 2-for-4 in his second-straight start in left. Marshall clawed back to trail 5-4 after six innings, but the best was yet to come.
Larmore was the man one inning later, smashing a three-run home run to give Marshall a 7-5 lead in the game. He plated second baseman Aaron Jamieson and first baseman Corie O'Bryan, who both singled to lead off the inning. "I was just looking for a pitch to drive and I got it," said Larmore. "Brad Helm really has stepped it up in the field for me while I was DH. It's a team game and all your can ask for is for teammates, like Bran and Steve, to keep us in the game until we have a chance to win it." Marshall sewed up the win in the eighth when Marshall scored six more runs. In the inning, centerfielder Chris Monaco executed a perfect "slug-bunt" to right field to score Koitsopoulos, who doubled. With the bases later loaded, Larmore knocked in his fourth run of the day with a sac fly to left field. Third baseman Adam Frederick (3-for-5 on day) knocked in two more with a single in the inning and "Koit" came up with a second hit and a RBI as the Herd batted around.
Ohio had scored five runs in the top of the third off starter Chris Koutsavlis, who was pulled after two and one-third, as the Bobcats had five consecutive hits to start the inning. OU scored four additional runs in the top of the ninth, cutting the Marshall lead from eight to four, with four more hits in the final at bat off Herd reliever Adam Dobies.
Marshall (15-20, 3-7) will look the get out "the broom" and sweep a series from Ohio (11-20, 4-7) for the first time in 25 years. The game is on Sunday at 1:00 p.m., at University Heights. The win Saturday was the 37th for Marshall in 140 games with the Bobcats and two-in-a-row is nothing to sneeze at for Herd fans. Marshall broke a 19-game losing streak to Ohio last year with a 4-3 win, losing every game from 1999-2003. The longest losing streak documented is 25-straight losses to Ohio between 1957 and 1970, when current Ohio coach Joe Carbone was a graduate assistant coach with the Herd for legendary Marshall coach Jack Cook.