Marshall (22-27, 6-15 in Conference USA) has lost five conference games in the ninth or tenth innings, earning the respect of teams in C-USA this season now faces a team in Rice that has a very good chance of winning the College World Series. The No. 1 Owls are the first top-ranked team to play in Huntington since the football team defeated I-AA No. 1 Troy State 24-21 in the 1993 semi-finals. The Herd also topped No. 1 Citadel on the road in 1992 and beat No. 1 McNeese State in the I-AA semi-finals in Louisiana in 1995. The Herd has lost at No. 1 Georgia Southern in 1989 and No. 1 Florida in 2001. The other highly-ranked teams to play in Huntington include loses to No. 3 Cincinnati (in 1961) and No. 3 Memphis (this season) in men's basketball and tennis falling to No. 13 Kentucky early this season.
The Herd dropped game one to the Owls 26-6, the the Herd relief corps allowed Rice to score 19 runs in the final six innings including nine in the ninth. Marshall did score four runs on Owl starter Eddie Degerman, now 10-1, and that is the most runs allowed all season by one of Conference USA's top pitchers, entering the game with a 1.36 ERA that was tops in the league. Brandon Murphy drove in his 69th run batted in of the season and Chris Monaco was 3-for-4. Monaco needs two steals to tie the Marshall career record of 59 stolen bases, held by Aaron Williams since 1999.
Your ticket for MU baseball is also good for West Virginia Power baseball Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m. On Friday, the Power will welcome the Greenville Drive to town for three games. Friday night will feature a fireworks show after the Power game. On Saturday, the MU game will be MU Alumni Game and Marshall President Dr. Stephen Kopp will throw out the first pitch. Marco and the Herd pep band will also be at the game. Fans will also be able to renew 2006 football season tickets all weekend at the park. The Power will give away ball caps, sponsored by Bayer, on 4-H/FFA Agriculture night at the park.
All three Marshall games start at 2 p.m. and Saturday will also be on WRVC AM 930, with Steve Cotton, the voice of the Herd, on the call. Marshall comes into the weekend with a number of players chasing record. Brendan Murphy, the junior DH for the Herd, now needs just four RBI to tie the single season record at MU of 73, set by Jason Brooks in 2001. Murphy has 14 home runs and 69 RBI on the season and last weekend hit his third grand slam of the season, tying Herd coach Dave Piepenbrink's brother John's (MU 1987-90) record from 1990. Rich Russell and Adam Frederick are also All-Conference candidates for the Herd. Russell, the Herd catcher, is seventh in C-USA in batting average (.352) and leads the league in being hit by pitches (20) and on-base percentage (.514). Frederick has put his name all over the Herd record book, now being the all-time hits leader. The third baseman is 10th in C-USA in hitting with a .348 average and slugging percentage (.576). He has a career high nine homers.
Senior pitcher Chris Koutsavlis has the task of trying to win his 19th career win, tying the all-time MU record held by Albie DeYoung (1975-78) and Sean Reeder (2001-04) by beating the Owls. Koutsavlis pitched a nine-inning complete game in losing to New York Tech 2-1 last Sunday, allowing only one earned run and three hits in the loss. Also pitching for the Herd will be Jeremy Sloan and Brian Chrisman, both 3-6 on the season, while Koutsavlis is 6-5 on the season. Rice will have pitchers Craig Crow (2.94) and Cole St. Clair (1.74, nine saves). Aaron Luna, a freshman for the Owls, has 12 home runs, while Joe Savery has 51 RBI and an ERA of 2.08 when pitching. Brian Friday is hitting .378 for the Owls and has 19 doubles. Rice is hitting .310 as a team, second in the league, but leads the league in ERA at 2.93 as a team.