There were a number of heroes in the game for the Thundering Herd, but start with starter Jeremy Sloan. Sloan worked into the sixth inning for the Herd, throwing 111 pitches (67 for strikes). Despite allowing the leadoff runner to reach in five of six innings, Sloan held the Eagles to just two runs on seven hits, striking out six and walking just three. The Paintsville, Kentucky junior improved to 3-4 on the season, 2-2 against C-USA opponents. "Jeremy has been a guy who gives us a chance," said coach Dave Piepenbrink after the game. "He is the leader on the team in innings pitched and (63.2 on the season) and worked out of jam after jam. I told the team after the game, that was the starting pitching and bullpen we had at the start of the year tonight."
The bullpen work was by Huntington sophomore Andrew Blain and senior stopper Brian Knipplemeyer, who picked up his fifth save of the season. Blain entered in the sixth with a runner on first and struck out USM lead-off hitter Trey Sutton to end the inning. Blain pitch one inning total, allowing one hit, walking one and striking out one. Knipplemeyer entered with two on and two out in a 3-2 game in the seventh and induced catcher Kevin Coker to fly out to right. He worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning, then struck out the side in the ninth, allowing a solo home run with two outs to center fielder Toddric Johnson, but comfortably picking up his team-leading fifth save of the year, thanks for a three-run rally by MU in the bottom of the eighth off one of the nation's best relievers. Knipplemeyer is now tied for second-most saves in a season with four other Herd pitchers and needs one to tie Chris Meadows' mark of six in a season, back in 2004.
With MU up 3-2, thanks to a solo home run by Herd third baseman Adam Frederick in the fifth, Marshall was facing Southern Miss reliever Daniel Best. Best is up for the Dick Howser Award, one of 64 players nominated as the best in the nation this season, and came into the game with a 4-1 record, a league-leading nine saves and a tiny 1.74 earned run average. With one out in the eighth, MU right fielder Brit Vincent picked up his first hit of the night with a sharp single to center off Best. Marshall center fielder Adam Ptacek followed with a double down the left field line that scored Vincent to give the Herd a 4-2 lead. Best was removed for Patrick Ezell, who recorded the second out of the inning before a single to right field by Chris Monaco of the Herd sent Ptacek home just ahead of a relay throw from first baseman Bailey Hartel. Ptacek had been thrown out by Southern Miss at the plate back in the second inning. Frederick followed with a single, then catcher Rich Russell knocked in Monaco with a single between second and first that USM's Sutton got a glove on but couldn't make a play as Monaco raced home from third, after going first to third on Frederick's hit.
Monaco was 3-for-4 on the night with a triple, run batted in and two runs scored. He also stole his eighth base of the year, number 50 in his career, and is nine back of the MU all-time record of 59 in a career held by Aaron Williams (1996-99). Monaco, who is hitting .301 on the season, is now hitting .380 in Conference USA games for the Herd. Frederick's ninth home run ties him for the MU lead with Brendan Murphy and he was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and one RBI. He is hitting .373 on the season. Russell was 2-for-3 with one RBI and was hit by a pitch for the 19th time this season, the all-time Marshall record. Russell leads C-USA, is second nationally in being hit by pitchers and is now only three HBP away from the all-time C-USA record of 22 in a season, set by Brian Hierlmeyer of USF in 2004 and Chad Huffman of TCU in 2005. He is also the all-time career leader in hit-by-pitch at Marshall with 44 plunks as a member of the Herd. Ptacek has been one of the Herd's hottest hitters of late. With a 1-for-3 performance tonight, plus a run scored and one RBI, Ptacek is now 12-for-29 (.414) in his last 11 games, with 16 RBI in that stretch (24 on the season).
Marshall and Southern Miss will met Saturday night at Appalachian Power Park at 7 p.m., then Sunday at 1 p.m. Chris Koutsavlis will take the hill for the Herd on Saturday, looking for his seventh win of the season which would tie him for first at MU with 19 career wins with two other Marshall pitchers (Grant Harper, 2001-04, and Albie DeYoung, 1975-78). Brian Chrisman is scheduled to pitch for the Herd on Sunday. Tickets are $7 for the public, $4 for Marshall students with MU ID.