The championship game of the tournament on Sunday, May 28 will be televised by CSTV (channel 174 on Adelphia cable in Huntington). All other games of the tournament will be video-streamed for free on www.ConferenceUSA.com. The tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship and currently C-USA is rated as the fifth best league in the nation, according to collegiate baseball's RPI rankings.
It will be the first trip to the post-season for Thundering Herd baseball since 1995, when Marshall traveled to Charleston, South Carolina for the Southern Conference baseball tournament. Marshall never qualified for the Mid-American tourney in eight years in the league and likewise did not qualify for the SC Tournament in 1996 or 1997 before moving to the MAC. Marshall was 1-2 in that tournament in ‘95, losing in the first round to The Citadel, then knocking off Davidson College before being eliminated by Western Carolina University. MU's ninth year head coach Dave Piepenbrink helped the 1990 Herd to the semi-finals of the SC Tournament by beating Furman and Western Carolina. The Herd be eliminated with losses to The Citadel and Western Carolina. Piepenbrink was named to the All-SC Tournament team in that 1990 tournament.
MU was the runner-up in the 1989 tourney, losing in the finals to the Catamounts of WCU in what turned out the be the final game for legendary MU coach Jack Cook's, who retired after the ‘89 season. Cook won 422 games in 24 seasons at Marshall, including winning the SC in 1981 and 1978 and advanced to the NCAA Atlantic Regionals in 1978 and 1973.
Rice (46-10, 22-2) won the regular season title in C-USA. While Marshall (22-30, 6-15 C-USA) was swept this weekend by No. 1 Rice, making the sixth sweep of a C-USA series in eight weekends for the Owls, the teams trailing the Herd in the standing did not have much luck either. UAB made the tournament by matching the Herd with a 6-18 mark in conference play. MU swept the Blazers in Birmingham, Ala. to hold the tiebreaker for the seventh seed. The Blazers became the eighth seed when they rallied back from an 8-0 deficit to post a 20-11 win over No. 16 Tulane in Saturday's regular season finale to win one of three games with the ranked Green Wave. UCF missed the tournament by dropping all three games at Southern Miss over the weekend to finish 5-19 in their first year in C-USA. The Golden Knights had won the Atlantic Sun Conference six times since 1993 and advanced 10 times to the NCAA Tournament prior to joining C-USA.
The Herd set what is believed to be an all-time attendance record on Saturday when 1,749 fans turned out for MU Alumni Day at Charleston's Appalachian Power Park, where the Herd played all its C-USA games this season. In what is the 100th season of Marshall baseball in 2006, the Herd drew the best crowd for a home contest since a standing-room only crowd of over 1,600 came to watch Marshall at the on-campus field, located about where today's Science Building and Morrow Library are located, in 1917 (It was Salvation Army Day, and admission was free if you donated a potato or onion). In the 2005 season, the Herd's best home crowd was just 325 in attendance at the Kent State game. This past weekend, the three-game series with MU and RU drew 3,415 to watch the Herd and the Owls, nearly matching the 3,940 the Herd drew for 19 games last season at University Heights. Marshall drew 5,390 for 12 games at "The APP," averaging about 450 fans per C-USA contest. MU drew 2,257 at University Heights for 15 games on 13 dates (doubleheaders with Buffalo and Niagara), an average of around 175 fans per game in Huntington at University Heights.
Not only was it a record-setting weekend crowd-wise, but a number of Herd records fell in the Rice series and for the regular season. Adam Frederick added to his career and season marks over the weekend. He is the all-time leader in games played (200), at bats (734), hits (247) total bases (340) and is fourth in runs batted in (120). The Franklin, Penn. senior third baseman has moved up to fourth in runs scored in a season (54), is sixth in doubles (16) in a year and is tied with teammates Rich Russell, Brendan Murphy, Adam Ptacek, Chris Monaco and Aaron Levinson for fifth in games played in a year (52), with a minimum of two to go, which will tie for fourth. Speaking of the Herd's senior catcher, Russell is second in walks in a season (36) and needs one to tie three players for first at 37. Russell, a senior from Toronto, has also shattered his own record of being hit by pitches, where he is the season (20) and career (46) leader. His 81 career walks are sixth all-time and he leads Marshall in batting average (.355) and on-base percentage (.515) this year. Levinson, a senior from Seattle, Wash., is tied for sixth in being hit by a pitch for his career (14).
First baseman Roddy Stieger is now second in doubles in a season (20) to only Eric Pinkerton, who had 22 in 2000. His 212 at bats is fourth most in one season, and seven more will tie for first. The West Chester, Ohio senior is also now number two for strikeouts in a season (50) and is only two away from tying the record. He is also second in career Ks (144), just nine from the record of 153. Designated hitter Brendan Murphy is second in RBI (70) for a year, and needs three in the C-USA tourney to tie Jason Brooks' Marshall record, set in 2001. Murphy, a junior from Chattanooga, is tied for third in season doubles (19), and is sixth in both home runs (15) and total bases (129). He leads the Herd in slugging percentage this season (.658).
Senior left fielder Chris Monaco is one stolen base away from tying the career mark of 59, set by Aaron Williams in 1999. Monaco, a senior from Tucson, Ariz. holds the single season mark of 40, set in 2004 and now is tied for fifth in steals in a season with 16 this year. He stole two early in the 2005 season before being injured and receiving a red-shirt for that season. Second baseman Brent Mason, another senior and native of Sherwood, Ark., is the Herd's first ESPN the magazine Academic All-District selection, as choosen by college sports information directors. His 13 stikeouts, among the nation's leaders, are the fewest since 2003 for MU.
On the pitching side, Chris Koutsavlis is the career leader in innings pitched at MU (317.0). The Pittsburgh senior has moved up to fifth in strikeouts (195) and needs one more for fourth. He is also fifth in appearances (60). His six wins, most since Sean Reeder won seven in 2000, are tied with eight other players for 10th most in a season. He is second in wins (18) and needs one to tie two players, including Reeder and Albie DeYoung ('75-'78) for first. Brendan Bump, a senior reliever and native of Lawrence, Kansas, is now seventh in all-time appearances (56), just one ahead of teammate Chris Cummings (55), a senior from Huntington. Bump is tied for tenth in career saves (three) and moved up to fifth in season appearances this weekend with his 24th of the year. Fellow senior relief pitcher, and Lincoln, Neb. native, Brian Knipplemeyer is tied for second in season saves (five) and needs one to tie the record, set by Chris Meadows in 2003. His five saves this season are good enough for sixth in all-time saves as well.
Team-wise, the Herd has broken and tied three single-season marks each. Marshall has 121 doubles, breaking the record of 105 set in 2001. The Herd also broke the hit by pitch mark, getting dinged 72 times, just one more than the 2004 team racked up when they were hit 71 times. The team has tied the record for sacrifices (38), set in 1998, and needs just two sacrifice flies to tie the record of 24, set in 2000. On the pitching side, 445.1 innings of pitching is a new record, breaking the old record of 441.2 set in 2003. Marshall has tied the record for team saves with nine, also set in 2003. The 22 wins, six more than last season, is tied for eighth most in a year with the 2003 and 1981 teams. It is tied for the third most wins in a season in the last 11 years, back to 1995.
The Herd was outscored by Rice by 52-16 (36 run difference, an average of 12 runs per game) for the series and lost 26-6 in the opener of the three-game set, but those are not the worst-ever games or series for Marshall. The most runs allowed in a conference series in the last decade was Kent State outscoring MU 63-to-21 (42 run difference, 10.5 rpg), but over four games, against the Herd in 2003, including the Flashes winning by 5-23, 2-21 and 9-17. The worst ever loss for Marshall was a 0-34 shutout by Florida State in 1996 (50-to-1 over two games, a 49 run difference and 24.5 rpg), and the Seminoles outscored MU 51-7 (44 run difference, 13.5 rpg) in a three game series in 1997, including 22-1. Marshall has allowed at least one opponent to score 18 or more runs in a game in every season but one (2004) in the last decade and three times in 2003, 1999, 1997 and 1996. Marshall's other worst all-time losses include 1-29 at Western Carolina in 1992 and 8-32 versus Virginia Tech in 1960. Marshall's biggest wins all-time came in 1903, a 42-7 win over then rival Morris Harvey (today's University of Charleston), and the Herd also beat the Eagles 32-3 in 1902. Other big wins include 35-4 over Bethany College in 1916; 29-1 over Marietta College in 1933; 23-2 over Rio Grande University in 1971; 22-8 over Buffalo in 2001 in MAC play; 19-2 over Western Michigan in the MAC in 2003; and 35-6 in 1990 at Morehead State, when the Herd cranked out team records for runs and earned runs, hits (34), home runs (nine) and RBI(34) in a single game.