MU Tops Ball St. 7-3; Softball Loses MAC Title

Marshall is nearly finished with the Mid-American Conference, but the Herd has decided to not go quietly into that good night. First, tennis won its 4th consecutive MAC tourney and went to NCAA for 4th year in a row. Softball won the MAC regular season, only to come up short (5-2) in the championship game at Akron on Sunday, although the 38-20 Herd might get a NCAA at-large bid. MU baseball, however, got the honor of hosting the last MAC event in Huntington, topping league-leader Ball State.

The Herd baseball team had been ripped by 17-4 and 9-0 on Friday and Saturday by Ball State (33-14, 17-5 and the only MAC school already in the MAC tournament in two weeks coming into the weekend), but Marshall got a pitching gem from beleaguered starter Chris Koutsavlis to win Sunday, 7-3. "Kooter," as Koutsavlis is known to the baseball team, pitched seven and one-third innings of five hit, one earned run baseball to win his third game of the year in nine decisions. Koutsavlis has been hit twice on his left (pitching) hand this year, last weekend by Akron and back in April at Ohio. Koutsavlis tired after throwing 118 pitches in the game and gave up three runs in the eighth inning, two of which were unearned on errors by third baseman Adam Frederick and a throw by Koutsavlis for what should have been a inning-ending double play to shortstop Aaron Jamieson. Jamieson was at short instead of Brett Mason with all four senior position players including normal starting outfielders Joe Glevenyak and Brad Helm, and Senior Day starters Marshall Murray at second base and Josh McConnell at DH, got to start for their final game at home. One other senior who was recognized in the pre-game, relief pitcher Mik Marchyshyn, did not appear in the game.

That's because Herd closer Brendon Bump, who leads the Herd with three saves and an ERA of 3.43, entered the game with one out in the eighth and shut down the Cardinals, who came into Sunday's game hitting .314 as a team, for an inning and two-thirds of one hit, no run baseball, striking out two in the ninth to snuff a BSU two-on, one-out sitution after a double and error by Jamieson. However, Jamieson made a sensational putout to Murray behind the bag to end the eighth, forcing Ball St. DH Marc Franz and ending the Cardinal three-run rally with runners on first and third. Jamieson also led the Herd attack with a perfect 4-for-4 day at the plate, two RBI and three doubles. Marshall, which had only 12 hits in the first two games, recorded 11 hits in the win, including a 2-for-4 with a double and RBI for Helm and 1-for-4, one run and two RBI performance for Glevenyak in their final game at University Heights. McConnell also picked up a hit and stole his first base of the year on Senior Day.

Other Herd hitters included third baseman Adam Frederick going 2-for-4 and scoring two runs; and leadoff hitter, centerfielder Adam Ptacek, had no hits but worked three walks off Cards starter Tyler Pritchard, (1-1) who took his first loss of the year, and Ptacek scored two runs. First baseman Roddy Stieger was 1-for-3 and stole a base.

The MAC is done in Huntington, but Marshall is not quite down with the MAC. MU baseball (16-31, 8-13 MAC) will travel to Buffalo next weekend for a final series with the Bulls, who are in the cellar of the MAC East Division. MU swept three straight from UB in Huntington in 2004 and have beaten the Bulls 10 of 14 games since Buffalo entered MAC baseball play in 2001. Note: MU Sports Medicine Director and 23-year Marshall team doctor, Dr. Jose Ricard, threw out the opening pitch of the final MAC contest in Huntington.

Turning to softball at the MAC Tournament in Akron, Ohio, in its first and last Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship game, the Marshall softball team came up short and fell to the Miami RedHawks, 5-2, on Sunday afternoon at Firestone Stadium. Miami starting pitcher Jackie Poggendorf pitched five innings, surrendering only one run on two hits, to grab the win for the RedHawks. Marshall's starter was Abigail Harter (14-10), who is only a sophomore, and she hurled five and one-third innings, giving up six hits and four runs. Randy Nielson, a senior pitcher for the Herd, came in in relief and surrendered one run. The Herd's lone senior will leave Marshall as the second-winningest pitcher in program history.

Marshall's Sara Spenia, Rachel Folden and Amanda Williams were all named to the all-tournament team. Poggendorf of Miami was awarded the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Williams registered her second home run of the tournament in the bottom of the third to edge Miami's lead to two. That gives Williams four home runs on the year. Three errors doomed the Herd as it was out-hit by the RedHawks 7-4. The win for Miami avenges a 9-0 loss at the hands of Marshall earlier this season.

Unless Marshall lands an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals, which will be announced on ESPN News between 7:30 and 8 p.m. tonight, the Herd will conclude its season at 38-20 and as MAC East Division Champs and MAC Regular Season Champions. Marshall will exit the league next year to embark on a new era in a new Conference USA in 2006, joining schools like UCF, East Carolina, UAB, Southern Miss, Memphis, Tulane, Houston, Rice, UTEP, SMU and Tulsa in the 10-year old league.

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