It's the first time Marshall has won back-to-back conference series since the 2005 Herd won 2-of-3 at Ball State, then swept three from Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference to finish 27-27 that season. This year, the Thundering Herd went 14-5 to start the season under first-year head coach Jeff Waggoner, the best start in two decades for the Marshall baseball program. Then, the Herd set an all-time losing streak by dropping its next 16 games in a row and starting out 0-9 in C-USA. Now, since last beating the Tigers 21-7 last Saturday at Memphis, Marshall (19-23, 4-10 in C-USA) has won five of its last seven games, four of five in C-USA. Marshall has taken back-to-back series with two wins at third-place Memphis and two wins back home over second-place, and No. 28 in the nation, Houston (24-19, 10-5), for the first time in C-USA play. "That's baseball," said Waggoner after Sunday's win. It's a tough game to play. Our guys played hard, did the little things well this weekend and are playing with confidence again."
One of those confident players was Sunday's starting pitcher, Jeremy Sloan. The senior from Paintsville, Kentucky threw 8.1 innings before tiring in the ninth, throwing 123 pitches. He gave up seven hits, three runs (one of those in the ninth) and walked four, improving to 3-2 on the season and lowering his earned run average a half-point to 4.93 for the season. "It's the one guy we want on the mound," said Waggoner. "We play well behind him and anytime he's on the mound, we feel we have a chance to win."
Senior Jeremy Sloan pitched the Herd to a 10-4 win over No. 28 Houston on Sunday to help Marshall win its second-consecutive Conference USA series. photo from Herdzone.com
The Herd was hitting as well as pitching on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the State Capital. Leadoff hitter Nate Lape, who transferred to Marshall after appearing in nine games for the NCAA World Series finalist from North Carolina, was 3-for-4, with a double and home run. "I'm just seeing the ball better," said Lape. "On the home run, I just hit the ball squarly and got a good piece of the pitch." Lape came into the series with a .254 average, but has raised that to .317 with his 6-for-11 weekend in the leadoff spot, hitting two home runs, two doubles, stealing two bases and driving in four runs. Second baseman Josh Valle was 2-for-3 on Sunday, picking up a hit in his eight consecutive game, and is now hitting .331 for his freshman season at Marshall.
Herd sophomre Nate Lape was 6-for-11 against Houston in leading the Herd to the series win over the Cougars.photo from Herdzone.com
Also extedning his hit streak was left fielder Jeff Rowley, who picked up with a 1-for-2 days with two walks after sitting out Saturday with a sore hand. He was 1-for-3 on Friday, despite taking a liner off his glove hand in warm-ups before game one with Houston. Rowley, a junior from Buffalo, N.Y., is leading the Herd with a .331 average this season. Senior Brit Vincent, who saw his 10-game hitting steak ended Saturday, came back Sunday with a 3-for-4 day, picking up his fourth double of the season and driving in and scoring two runs each. Freshman center fielder Mason Chapman hit his first collegiate triple on Sunday as Marshall scored 10 runs on 14 hits against the ranked Cougars, who swept Tulane at New Orleans last week. Tulane's tailspin continued as Central Florida (22-23, 4-11) swept the Green Wave this week in Orlando.
Freshman second baseman Josh Valle is on a hot-streak for the Herd, with a hit in eight consecutive games. Valle was 4-for-10 this weekend and hit his first collegiate home run on Friday and drove in three runs versus the Cougars.photo from Herdzone.com
Marshall will not play a weekday out-of-conference game this week, due to final exams at the university, but will travel to Southern Miss (27-19, 8-10) for a series starting Friday in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The Golden Eagles took 2-of-3 from East Carolina (29-15, 7-7) this weekend, falling 6-3 on Sunday. Then the Herd will return to Charleston for the final conference home series of the year against UAB (18-28, 5-10), who was swept by first-place Rice (37-11, 16-2) - the No. 3 team in the Nation in the National College Baseball Writers and Sports Weekly polls - in Birmingham. Memphis (27-16, 9-6 was off this weekend.
When the Herd faces the Blazers, May 12 will be both Senior Day for Marshall's eight seniors (Aaron Jamieson, Nick Wolle, Thad Ledford, Jeremy Sloan, Brit Vincent, Brendan Murphy and Fred Haden) and Marshall Alumni Day at Appalachian Power Park in Charleson, sponsored by the Greater Kanawha Valley Marshall Alumni Club. Fans can get a box seat for the MU-UAB Noon start on Saturday, then have a picnic with the team after the game. The Marshall ticket is then good that night for the West Virginia Power game with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, and it will be Charleston Charlies Cap Night - a salute to the International League championship AAA farm club of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros in Charleston in the 1970s. Contact the Greater Kanawha Valley Alumni Club for information at 304-744-5149 or send your check to: Martha Hill, c/o MUAA, 302 Hunters Ridge Road, Charleston, WV, 25314.