Marshall baseball and softball have both won four games in a row, after splitting double-headers earlier in the week with Niagara (bb) and Indiana State (sb). And both have been led by red-hot hitters.
Rachel Folden, a sophomore utility player from Baldwin Park, Calif., crushed her 12th and 13th home runs of the year on Saturday in the opener against Central Florida (UCF). That extends the new Marshall homer record she tied last week with her 10th home run of the year, and Folden, the Pre-Season Conference USA Player of the Year, is only five from tying the all-time C-USA mark for home runs in a season at 18. Folden was a third team All-American on the NFCA/Louisville Slugger team last year when Marshall won the Mid-American Conference regular season.
Her success with the home run is causing some teams, including UCF on Sunday, to intentionally walk Folden at times, something she is not happy with. "No one likes to be walked or be pitched around," said Folden. "When they are willing to pitch and they make a mistake, I'm going to make them pay. I've been able to do it so far and hopefully, the trend continues."
This year, she is leading the Herd in batting average at .419; homers with 13; runs-batted-in with 37; 36 hits; a slugging percentage of .953 and an on-base percentage of .495 as well. She is tied with teammate Leigh Wintter with 12 walks and is tied for second on the team with seven doubles. She hit .406 last year, with nine home runs and 60 RBI.
On the men's side, junior college transfer Brendan Murphy has made an immediate impact for the Herd. The junior from Chattanooga, Tenn. is third on the Herd with a .400 average, but leads the team in home runs (six), RBI (27) and slugging percentage (.855). He is second in hits with 22 and is tied for third in bases-on-balls with seven.
Murphy was an unstoppable force against Cleveland State. He hit .429 for the weekend (9-of-21), with three homers, three doubles, six runs and 11 runs-batted-in. He came to the Herd from Southwest Tennessee Community College, where he hit .372 with six home runs and a league-leading five doubles. He played for the Lehigh Valley Catz of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League last summer, hitting .287 with two homers and a team-best 23 RBI. He was a high school All-American and a Gatorade Player of the Year at Grace Academy in Chattanooga, where he hit .630 as a senior.
"Murphy is seeing it very well right now," said MU coach Dave Piepenbrink following the weekend, where his team scored 45 runs and hit over .400 as a squad. "You can't pitch around him, however, with Roddy Steiger on a 14-game hitting streak at the five spot and hitting right at .400, just behind Murphy in the lineup. Our No. 3 hitter, Rich Russell, is leading the team and Conference USA in hitting and being hit-by-pitches, so teams don't have a lot of options in the middle of our lineup. They have to challenge us and that leads to some hitting opportunities for these guys."
Softball (16-12, 4-2 in C-USA) will be back in action this week in Virginia, with two games at Radford on Tuesday and a double-header at Virginia Tech on Wednesday. The baseball team (8-7), over .500 for the first time in two seasons, will open Conference USA play at the University of Houston on Friday. The Cougars, normally a nationally-prominent program, is off to a slow start at 13-11, losing two-of-three to San Diego State over the weekend. Baseball will have its home C-USA opener on March 31 at 7 p.m. at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va., the home of the West Virginia Power. Marshall will play all conference games at the home of the Milwaukee Brewer's South Atlantic League "A" club in the one-year old jewel of a ballpark. See www.herdzone.com for pricing on individual games at Charleston, especially a number of double-headers with the Power in April.