Woody's Wednesday of Wins, And O.J., Oh My!

Wednesday was quite a day in the city of Huntington and yours truly. On the diamonds, the MU softball team got a first-ever wins over Louisville; MU baseball rallied to keep its best start in two decades alive against the pesky Penguins of YSU; the screening committee was selected to find the new Marshall men's basketball coach; and O.J. Mayo threw up, as Huntington cruised towards a third title.

The day started at University Heights, whereMarshall baseball had to get a two-run home run by sophomore shortstop Brandon Casamassi and a game-winning RBI by third baseman Matt Helm, both in the eighth inning, to get the win over Youngstown State 4-3. YSU (1-9), who won its first game of the season over the Herd on Tuesday, had led 3-1 into the eighth. For the Herd, Andrew Blain pitched out of a bases-loaded seventh and Andrew Hancock pitched the eighth to get his first win of the season in relief of starter Adam Dobies. Helm was 2-for-4 with two RBI, while Brendan Murphy was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. In the ninth, senior reliever Nick Wolle came on for a one-two-three inning to wrap up his sixth save in six chances. That ties the Marshall single-season mark of six saves set in 2003 by Chris Meadows, who also holds the career mark with 13.

In softball, coupled with a pair of solid pitching performances and a balanced offensive attack, the Marshall Thundering Herd finished its six-game homestand with a 5-1 mark, sweeping a doubleheader from Louisville Wednesday. The Herd (15-9) has now won eight of its last 10 games and 11 of its last 13. Louisville (11-10) snapped a five-game winning streak, suffering its first loss since March 7. In the first game, Marshall jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, but was able to hold off a furious Louisville rally and took an 8-5 win. Senior southpaw Abigail Harter earned her eighth win (8-4) of the season in the circle. Harter allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings, while fanning five batters. Freshman Erin DeStefano scattered two hits, while giving up a run in an inning of relief. All nine Herd batters record a hit in game one. J.J. Bitner went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Rachel Schmidt went 1-for-3 with a two-RBI double. Both were 1-for-3 in game two and in that game, despite only recording two hits, it was all Marshall would need as the Herd posted a 2-1 win, securing the doubleheader sweep. Senior hurler Amanda Luers went the distance, allowing one run, while scattering six hits for the complete-game victory. Luers (6-2) struck out one in her sixth victory of the season, which is a new single-season career high.

On the men's basketball front, Marshall University Director of Athletics Bob Marcum has announced the formation of an eight-person screening committee for the vacant head men's basketball coaching position at MU, in the wake of Ron Jirsa's contract being ended on Monday. The committee, which will assist in the search for a new men's basketball coach and forward recommendations to Marshall University President Dr. Stephen J. Kopp includes individuals from both the Marshall campus and Huntington community. The following list who will look at such candidates as Donnie Jones at Florida, John Pelphrey at South Alabama, Gregg Marshall at Winthrop and many other names in the coaching profession is in alphabetical order:
Robert Bookwalter - NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative at Marshall;
Michael J. Farrell - Marshall University Board of Governors, Athletics Committee Chair and former interim President of Marshall;
Larry G. Jarrett - Marshall University professor and Chair of Geography Department and a former Thundering Herd athlete;
Bob Marcum - Marshall University Director of Athletics;
Tom Miller - President of the Big Green Scholarship Foundation;
Jeff O'Malley - Marshall University Associate Athletic Director and Chief-of-Staff;
Senator Robert H. Plymale - (Dem./Wayne) Chair of the West Virginia Senate Education Committee;
Marshall T. Reynolds - CEO and Chairman of the board of Champion Industries. Reynolds just came off in December of 2006 of a five-year ban from participating in official activities at MU, in relation to the probations and loss of scholarships in football and basketball, under Bob Pruett and Greg White, at Marshall. The screening committee will be chaired by Marcum and co-chaired by Marshall Athletics Chief-of-Staff Jeff O'Malley.

Finally at the Charleston Civic Center at the West Virginia Boys High School Basketball State Tournament, Huntington High began its quest to become the first AAA school to ever win three-consecutive state titles with an embarrassingly easy 103-39 win over the Polar Bears of Fairmont Senior. Huntington jumped to a 29-12 lead in the first half and 49-21 at half behind a near perfect half by Patrick Patterson. The Highlander center, still undecided on his college choice, was 8-of-9 in the first half, scoring 17 points, grabbing five rebounds, taking away three steals and blocking three shots. O.J. Mayo, who is headed to Southern California, hit 4-of-6 from three and scored 14 points in the first half.

Mayo, who was throwing up on the bench in the second half, did not score after the break but Patterson was just beginning. He finished with a double-double of 27 points, missing only one shot on a 12-of-13 night on his 18th birthday, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking seven shots total. Huntington had five players in double figures, including Mayo with 14; Bruce Senior with 16 (12 in the first half); Chris Early with 13 and Michael Taylor with 10. The Highlanders had 28 assists. "I believe that is a season high," said Mayo, who also said it was some greasy pizza earlier in the day that caused him to become ill. "We played hard throughout and that's a good sign for Friday's game." HHS shot 64 percent from the floor (40-of-63). "I thought we played well," said Patterson. "We hopefully have two games left." Patterson was asked about focusing on the game when you are up by almost 30 points at half. "I think you have to challenge yourself every game, every half. You have to keep working to get better and I believe the sky is the limit for me if I keep putting in the work." Patterson, rumored to be considering Kentucky, Florida, Wake Forest, Virginia and other schools, was still non-committal after the game.

On Friday, Huntington will face Bridgeport, a surprise winner over Jefferson in the morning session. The A brackets are set with Gilbert remaining undefeated with a win over Buffalo; Williamstown topping Notre Dame; Charleston Catholic beating Greater Beckley Christian; and Bishop Donahue over Tucker County. The other two AAA games and all four AA games are Thursday on WCMI 1340 AM in Huntington, while Friday's morning games are on WCMI and Friday's evening session, with Huntington-Bridgeport, being on WRVC 930 AM. All three class championships on Saturday will also be on WRVC, starting at Noon. MU baseball is home Friday, Saturday and Sunday against Canisius, starting at 1 p.m. except for Noon on St. Patrick's Day Saturday, March 17.

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