Big Sports Weekend For Herd/Area Fans

The end of April is usually reserved for National Football League "draft-niks," who spend the weekend bunkered in their "war rooms" dissecting and bemoaning every selection in all seven rounds. But Tri-State area track fans, both running and "racin'," and fans of the Thundering Herd have a myriad of choices this weekend that will give them a break from Mel Kiper, Jr. and "Boomer" Berman on ESPN.

Conference USA baseball action returns to Appalachian Power Park this weekend when the Houston Cougars visit the Marshall Thundering Herd for a three-game series beginning Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Game two will also start at 7 p.m. on Saturday, with the series finale slated for an 11 a.m. start on Sunday and all games can be heard on WRVC 930 AM, ESPN radio for the Tri-State, where you will also be able to get NFL Draft updates throughout the day. The game is also available as a podcast after the completion of each games at on the web. Marshall (17-22, 2-9) has won three of its last four games but is coming off a 7-6 loss at Ohio on Wednesday in which it held a two-run lead entering the ninth inning. The loss snapped MU's three-game win streak.

Freshman second baseman Josh Valle is on a hot-streak for the Herd, who have won three of its last four after breaking a long losing streak last weekend by taking 2-of-3 from Memphis. photo from

The Herd bats have come alive as of late, evidenced by MU's .356 team batting average over the last five games. Second baseman Josh Valle, a freshman from Brentwood, N.Y., is hitting .526 over that span with a .632 slugging percentage. He is riding a five-game hitting streak with multiple hits in each of the last four games. The series will feature the reigning hitter and pitcher of the week in C-USA. Herd catcher Tommy Johnson was named the C-USA Hitter of the Week after his phenomenal week at the plate in which he hit .545 in four games, including a two home run performance over the course of the Herd's 2-1 series win at Memphis. Brown will face Marshall's Brian Chrisman in game one. The junior pitched 7.1 innings in his last outing, at Memphis on Friday, giving up 10 hits and four earned runs with five strikeouts. As has been the case for several of Chrisman's starts in 2007, he lacked run support to drop him to 3-5 on the season due to a 5-3 Herd loss to the Tigers, then Marshall out-scored Memphis 32-7 in the final two games.

Junior catcher Tommy Johnson is the Conference USA Hitter of the Week, as he hit .600 last week for the Herd. Johnson was 1-for-4 with an RBI in the Herd's 8-4 win over EKU on Tuesday. photo from

Houston junior Aaron Brown, the Cougars' scheduled starter on Friday, was selected as the C-USA Pitcher of the Week for his efforts in upending Tulane. He pitched seven shutout innings versus the Green Wave with seven strikeouts. Houston (23-17, 9-3) is in second place in C-USA and is ranked 28th in the nation in the latest Collegiate Baseball poll. The Cougars posted a three-game sweep of then No. 23 Tulane last weekend, UH's first ever sweep of the Green Wave in New Orleans, to enter the series winners of four straight. The best-hitting team in C-USA (.296) features the league's top hitter in left fielder Jimmy Cesario. The junior is batting .385 on the year and has three home runs and 27 RBI for the Cougars. Houston leads the all-time series, which began last season in Houston, Texas, 4-0. All three Houston-Marshall games can also be accessed online live via "GameTracker" is also available on

The Marshall softball team will close out the regular season this weekend on campus at Dot Hicks Field with the Georgetown Hoyas in a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. It will be Senior Day for the Herd's four seniors: cathcer Gina Guzzo, hitting .268 with five home runs and 27 runs batted in, as well as 8-for-9 in stolen bases; pitchers Abigail Harter (12-13, 3.31 ERA, 95 strikeouts and just 28 walks) and Amanda Luers (10-5, 3.46 ERA, 61K and 39 base-on-balls); and reserve outfielder Ashlee Nichol. The Herd's Samatha Rodriguez is the Conference USA Hitter of the Week, and was 2-for-2 with a double and a two-run homer in the final game of a three-game sweep last weekend of Memphis in Huntington. Marshall is 28-22 overall, 10-11 and in fifth place in Conference USA.

Also in Charleston besides the Herd and the Cougars will be the Gazette/Wendy's Relays, featuring over 100 boys and girls teams. The meet will be starting Friday evening at Laidley Field at University of Charleston Stadium. Considered a preview of the state track meet, which is held at the same venue, Cabell Midland is the favorite in both boys and girls AAA and are the defending champs on the boys side. The Knights of former Thundering Herd track standout Chris Parsons have won seven state titles in boys track since Barboursville and Milton combined for Cabell Midland in 1994-95 and the CMHS girls team is the defending state champs.

In AA, Winfield is expected to defend its Gazette titles in both boys and girls track, although Chesapeake and Ironton out of Ohio will certainly contend in the AA field. Marshall football quarterback recruit Chris Smith of South Point, Ohio is the leader this year in the area in shot (55-feet, 6-inches) and discus (168-feet). Winfield will be one of the favorites to win the state track meet May 18-19. Events at the Gazette/Wendy's Relays start Friday at 4 p.m., then resume Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Parking is available all around Laidley Field and nearby at the state capital. Champions will be crowned in AAA, AA and A divisions.

If tracks will cars are more to your liking, you will not have to stay glued to the TV or listen to just 93.7 FM, The Dawg, on Saturday and Sunday for Busch and Nextel Cup action. The Ona Speedway, which opened in 1963, will have the 2007 opening of racing this Saturday at 7 p.m., with the gates opening at 5 p.m. The Tri-State's only asphalt track for stock car racing will have classes for: Late Model; Modified; Hobby Stock; U-Car; Any Car; and Classic Cars. The speedway is an alcohol-free facility with grandstand seating.

The new owners are Bill and Lynn Bauer, while the promoters are Billy and Jennifer Rose and Billy Rose is excited about this weekend with over 100 cars registered. Coming up in June will be the C&O Motors Race of Champions, sponsored by The Dawg, 93.7 FM. NASCAR stars Clint Boyer, Dale Earnhart, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr. and Kenny Wallace will make appearances at the track and listeners to The Dawg can win a special package of early access to the racers and prime seats for the evening's racing. Also coming in July is a Monster Truck Shootout for the July 4th Holiday, a Labor Day racing program, kids bike races during the summer and the Mountaineer 100 in October. Tickets are $9 for adults for regular racing nights, free for children under 12. The C&O Motor Race of Champions tickets are $46.50, $35 and $25 and are available through on the web.

The Ona Speedway is located beside the Ona Airfield, on Howells Mills Road off of Route 60 in Ona. Exit at the Huntington Mall and turn right (East) on Route 60 for about two and one-half miles. The raceway is about three and one-half miles off Route 60 East on Howells Mills Road. Call 654-7004 for information.

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