Marshall swept Eastern Michigan to open the Herd's final season in the MAC by scores of 7-5 and 14-8 at University Heights on Saturday afternoon under clear skies. Marshall got great pitching, for the second consecutive Saturday, from Pittsburgh, Pa., junior Chris Koutsavlis in game one and cranked up 25 hits over the two games on offense. "If we get enough pitching to keep us in the game," said Piepenbrink, "we seem to be swinging the bats better the last couple of weeks and that's led to wins.
"Coach (Tom) Carty (the Herd's pitching coach) might tell you we did not have a great day. But Koutsavlis has given us over 17 innings the last two weekends," continued Piepenbrink. "In the second game, Chris Cummings had not pitched in two weeks, so we expected him to have some location problems but he had, what, eight strikeouts in three and one-third innings. That's impressive." Koutsavlis (2-1), who pitched a complete game win against St. Bonaventure last Saturday, gave MU eight and one-third innings in the first game, striking out seven, walking one and allowing only seven hits. Koutsavlis allowed three of the five EMU runs he surrendered in the ninth inning before giving way to reliever Brendon Bump, who notched his first save at Marshall by closing the 7-5 win. "It's nice to pitch into the ninth two weeks in a row," said Koutsavlis, "but it's nicer to post those two wins today for our team."
In game one, left fielder Aaron Levinson led off and went 3-of-4 at the plate and the Herd got power hitting from right fielder Joe Glevenyak (double and solo homer) and second baseman Aaron Jamieson (2-for-5, home run and two RBI), who both teamed to hit back-to-back jacks for the Herd in the seventh to break open a 2-2 game. First baseman Roddy Steiger and third baseman Adam Frederick added doubles and shortstop Brent Mason had one hit and knocked in two runs.
Game two was very strange, as MU jumped out to a 6-0 lead through three innings, only to see Cummings allow four of the five runs Eastern scored in the fourth inning, coming on no hits and five walks. Marshall charged into the lead for good with a seven-run fifth inning, including a bases-loaded "Grand Slam" home run from Frederick. "It's my first at Marshall," said Frederick, who was 3-for-5 in the second game with six RBI, "but it felt good for the team to swing the bats like we know we can. We can win a lot of games when we score runs in bunches, like today."
Brian Knippelmeyer (2-4) picked up his second win at Marshall with three and two-thirds innings of three run (two earned), one hit baseball. Knippelmeyer struck out four and also walked four, as Marshall allowed EMU to score eight runs on only four hits but 10 walks from the Thundering Herd pitching staff. Bump got the final four outs for the Herd, striking out two and walking none.
Eastern Michigan had dominated the series with Marshall since MU re-entered the MAC in 1998 for baseball, winning 12, losing just two and tying one against the Herd. EMU were the MAC West Champs in 2002 and 2003 (and won the MAC tourney that year, advancing to the NCAA Tournament) and the Eagles had not lost a game to any current player on the Thundering Herd roster over the last four years, winning eight-straight since 2001. The Eagles have posted three consecutive seasons of 30 or more wins, but fell to 4-15 this year, 0-2 in the MAC for the first time since 2000. Marshall improves to 7-12 on the season, 2-0 in the MAC for the first time since 1963 (MU swept Toledo that year to open conference play, 13-11 and 24-16). If MU can win Sunday's game with Eastern Michigan, it would be the Herd's first-ever 3-0 start in MAC play and Marshall's first 3-0 start in league play since sweeping the Purple Paladins of Furman University to start the 1995 season in the Southern Conference.
Levinson improves his MU team-leading batting average to .392, thanks to a 3-for-5 day. Glevenyak extended his team lead in home runs (four) and RBI (14) with today's sweep and moved his average up to .310 for the year. Jamieson (.360), Tommy Johnson (.333) and Rich Russell (.308) are also hitting above .300 for the Herd, who raised its team batting average to .276, up 12 points with the 25 hits in the two wins.
Marshall is now 4-1 at University Heights this season. Sunday's game with Eastern Michigan is scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. start, but predicted rain may alter the start time. The Herd will look to "Defend The Heights" (as Glevenyak called playing at home for the Herd last Saturday after the MU's sweep of the Bonnies) on Sunday, before playing Wednesday at Eastern Kentucky at 3:00 p.m. The Herd then moves on to Miami-Ohio, for next weekend's MAC action on Friday at 3:00 p.m., then 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Other Herd action on Saturday included MU Softball falling to Buffalo 3-2, after sweeping games one (4-1) and two (4-0) on Friday. Herd Softball is now 16-12, 2-1 in MAC play. MU Tennis, ranked number 70 in the nation, rebounding from its first MAC loss in four years at #49th-ranked Western Michigan on Friday, by a 4-3 score, by shutting out Northern Illinois in DeKalb by the score of 7-0, improving to 8-7, 1-1 in MAC play. Thundering Herd Football will return to the field for the final 10 days of spring practice this Wednesday, as coach Larry Kueck picks up the pace again in preparing the Herd for its first season in Conference USA, beginning at 7:00 a.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The Herd will work out at South Charleston on Saturday, April 9, at 6:00 p.m., then have the Spring Game on April 16 at 4:00 p.m. at "The Joan."