Baseball, Softball Home Saturday, Sunday

Marshall baseball and softball have big weekend series starting Saturday as both teams get back into Conference USA action after playing in the ACC and Pac Ten during spring break. The MU baseball team will host the Memphis Tigers, who swept UAB last week to open C-USA play, in Charleston, W.Va., at Appalachian Power Park while the softball team will host UCF at Dot Hicks Field in Huntington.

Marshall baseball was supposed to open Friday night with Memphis at Appalachian Power Park, but heavy rains have now made for a Saturday doubleheader, starting at Noon and heard on ESPN 930-AM. The Herd earlier this week broke a six-game losing streak in a big way, shutting out North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., 3-0. The Herd had lost two to Kent State (in a pair played at the WV Tech field in Montgomery, 30 minutes north of the state capital of Charleston), three to Rice in the Conference USA opener last week at Appalachian Power Park and the first game to the Wolfpack. The shutout is the first since MU beat George Mason 6-0 on February 29 in a game played at Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C.

Memphis has lost two in a row, at Austin Peay (4-2) and to Arkansas State at home (7-4) after winning five in a row over UAB to open league play at home and against Samford in Memphis. The Tigers are 11-12 this season, and UM leads the all-time series with Marshall 4-2. Those two wins, however, came in the final two games at Memphis last season when the Herd roared to a 21-7 win on Saturday and an 11-0 shutout on Sunday, April 22, Marshall's first shutout of a conference team in C-USA. The Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year with a 36-27 overall mark, 12-12 in C-USA.


Kurt Lipton, a MU junior transfer from Vanderbilt, doubled in two runs for the Herd in a 3-0 win at N.C. State. Marshall will host Memphis for three this weekend at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, and those games can be heard on ESPN 930-AM in Huntington. photo from HerdZone.com

Kurt Lipton, Marshall 's right fielder, blasted an RBI double to right field and the Herd pitching staff combined for a one-hit shutout to help lift the Herd to a 3-0 victory and series split with North Carolina State in Wednesday afternoon's non-conference baseball game at Doak Field at Dail Park. North Carolina State falls to 14-8 on the season while Marshall is 9-12. After posting a 1-0 lead and being held scoreless through five innings, Marshall scored two in the top of the seventh. Senior left fielder Jeff Rowley drew a lead-off walk, advanced to second on a ground out and scored on Lipton's RBI double to right field. Lipton advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored the Herd's third run of the game when freshman catcher Kevin Shackelford reached safely on a throwing error to put MU up 3-0.

The Wolfpack broke up the Marshall pitching staff's collective no-hitter in the bottom of the seventh when center fielder Marcus Jones had an infield single to third base. From there, senior right-handed reliever Adam Dobies forced a pair of ground outs to third base to hold N.C. State scoreless through seven innings. Freshman right-hander Arik Sikula came on in the bottom of the eighth inning and retired the side in order in both the eighth and ninth innings to seal the win. Herd red-shirt sophomore left-hander Ryan Kiel, who entered in the third inning, registered his first win of the season to improve to 1-1, while Sikula picks up his third save of the year with a solid two-inning performance.

Marshall scored a run in the top of the first when Yeager drew a lead-off walk, stole second, advanced to third on a ground out and then scored on an RBI groundout by sophomore first baseman Josh Valle. Valle extended his hitting streak to 13 games, and currently holds the longest hitting streak of the season by a Marshall hitter (junior right fielder Nate Lape had the previous longest streak of 12 games).

Lape, who won national and C-USA Hitter of the Week honors the previous week when MU swept six straight from VMI and Valparaiso, leads MU with a .449 average, eight home runs and 22 runs batter in. Lipton has seven doubles to tie with Lape in that statistic, and has 16 RBI. Valle's 13-game hit streak has raised his average to .342, while freshman DH Victor Gomez is hitting .339 and senior catcher Tommy Johnson is at .294, with four doubles, four homers and 19 RBI. The Herd is hitting .294, compared to a .261 average for its opponents.

MU pitching shows all three weekend starters at 2-2 for the season. Andrew Blain is low among that group with a 2.42 ERA with just 10 walks in 26 innings pitched, 14 strikeouts and just seven earned runs. Steve Blevins, a transfer from Cincinnati, is at a 6.66 ERA, with 25.2 innings pitched 16 Ks and 10 bases on balls. Dan Straily, another transfer and from Western Oregon University, leads the staff with 28 punch outs, but has walked 17. His ERA is 5.47 for the season. Freshman Arik Sikula, from nearby Hurricane, leads the staff with three saves and a 1.98 ERA. He has allowed only three earned runs in 13.1 innings, and leads the staff in appearances (11) and has 14 strikeouts to just seven walks. Another freshman, Ben Jurevicius, has appeared in two games and in one-third of an inning has allowed no runs for an ERA of 0.00, while Andrew Hancock is 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA out of the pen. The Herd team ERA is 5.68, just slightly higher than the opponents 5.33 for the 2008 season.


Rachel Folden leads Marshall softball with 17 doubles and five home runs as the Herd hosts UCF in Huntington this weekend. photo from HerdZone.com.

Softball is looking to break a four-game losing streak, but those losses have come against No. 1 Arizona State and No. 10 Arizona this week. Marshall lost twice on Wednesday to the Wildcats of UA, 11-5 and 9-1. The Sun Devils won a pair on Tuesday, 13-1 and 5-0. Rachel Folden had a home run against Arizona, as did Samantha Rodriguez, and C-USA Hitter of the Week Kelly Nielson homered in game one with the Wildcats. Rodriguez had two hits in the first game against the Sun Devils, while Folden had a double, her 17th.

Nielson earned that honor in part with a grand slam on Sunday to give Marshall two of three at UTEP in a Conference USA series in El Paso, Texas. Marshall is now 12-20 on the year, 4-4 in C-USA. Marshall opened the brand new Dot Hicks Field on Third Avenue and 22nd Street on the MU campus with three loses to No. 13 Houston after opening with two wins at Memphis in the C-USA opener that saw one game lost to weather.

That will not be as much of a problem at "The Dot" as the outfield is FieldTurf, the same as the football team uses at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, just across the street from the softball facility. Some construction remains to be completed, but the press box, field and dugouts were completed in time for the home opener with the Cougars. Marshall has one win, over No. 8/10 DePaul at the Red/Black Showcase at the University of Georgia, but has lost eight in a row to ranked teams since the win over the Blue Demons on Feb. 8.

Folden leads the Herd with a .404 batting average, and the two-time C-USA Player of the Year and All-American is tied for the team lead with five home runs and has 12 runs batted in. Deanna Tourville lead the Herd with 22 RBI and Caitlyn Jackson has three triples to lead MU in that category. Jackson is just 5-12 on the season, with a 5.09 earned run average while Autumn Mitchell also has five wins (5-3). Her 3.55 ERA leads the team. Erin DeStefano is 2-4 with a 8.01 ERA.

UCF is on a roll, heading into Huntington, having won nine games in a row since taking the second and third games of a C-USA series. The Knights, 6-3 in league play, have beaten UAB (twice), Jacksonville, Iowa, Tulsa (three-game sweep) at home and won this week at Florida Atlantic and at Florida International. Last season, Marshall lost two of three in Orlando, then lost to the Knights to open the Conference USA Tournament at the UCF facility. All-time, the series is tied 5-5.


Herd Haven Top Stories