The seven C-USA wins are the most since Marshall joined the league in 2002 and the Herd scored 12 runs Sunday, plating five in the second inning and two each in the sixth, seventh and eighth, and had 18 hits off four UCF pitchers. The damage run-wise could have been even more, however, as Marshall left 16 runners on base in the contest. Junior first baseman Josh Valle led the Herd with a 3-for-5 day and three runs batted in in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Junior shortstop Adam Yeager set the table for the Herd attack by also going 3-for-5 and scoring three runs.
Herd sophomore first baseman Josh Valle was 3-for-5 against UCF Sunday, with three RBI and one run scored, to help led the Herd to a sweep of the Knights in Conference USA play. photo from www.HerdZone.com
Leftfielder Jeff Rowley also had a big day, reaching 3-for-4, driving in a run and scoring a run. Marshall had lost 2-of-3 games to UCF (26-16, 4-11 in C-USA) in the first two league series in 2006 and 2007, and the senior understood the significance of knocking off a team that was ranked in the Top 30 when UCF got off to a 20-1 start to the season. "We are coming on strong as of late, and that's what we needed to do," said Rowley. "Our goal is to get to an NCAA Regional and we are right where we need to be. I think we are a different team than we were in the past and our goals are a lot higher here than they have been in the past.
"The Knights are a good team but I think we keep playing our game, and we refused to lose." Rowley also knows the C-USA race is still up for grabs where, except for the Rice Owls who are five games up on everyone, every team is still in the race to not be the ninth place team and not make the C-USA Tournament in New Orleans in May. Houston has eight wins, UAB has three and six other teams are right in the middle of that pack with Houston at 8-4, East Carolina at 8-7, Marshall at 7-7-1, Memphis is at 4-8 and Southern Miss and Tulane are battling today to grab their six or seventh win of the season.
"We are all bunched up in a pack right now," said Rowley of the standings in the league. "Now is the most important time of the season, when teams start to separate themselves. We did a good job this weekend." Jeff Waggoner, the head coach of Marshall, echoed his senior when asked if the weekend had put his team where it wants to be with nine league games to play. "It's exciting for the program," said Waggoner, in his second year. "We are putting ourselves where we will be four or five (in C-USA) and our RPI should be down in the 80s. Last year, we were 230 in RPI, so we are putting ourselves in a place where we can be a regional team. UCF is a great team, one of the top hitting teams in Conference USA and they played well but we played a little bit better." Waggoner is hoping to get his first true home game of the year with Ohio on Wednesday at the YMCA Kennedy Center Field on Route 2, north of Huntington, as a quick trip Tuesday to play Kent State, where Waggoner was an assistant when Marshall was in the Mid-American Conference.
UCF took the lead with three in the second inning, spurred by Chris Duffy's second home run of the weekend, but the Herd answered with five runs in the bottom of the frame. Brandon Casamassima delivered a run scoring single, followed by Valle's two-run single, both coming with two outs. The Knights retook the the lead 6-5, with three more in the top of the third. The Herd tied the game when Adam Yeager reached, stole second and scored again with two outs on another Casamassima single in the fourth. Starter Dan Strailey, who only went three innings and gave up six earned runs, was relieved by Adam Dobies in the fourth, and he walked the leadoff hitter and gave up a double to UCF's Colin Arnold. On a fly ball out on the next batter, however, Dobies went to back up the plate for Kurt Lipton's throw home and suffered an injury to his left leg. In came freshman Ian Kadish, and he had bookend stikeouts around a walk and left the bases loaded for the Knights.
UCF retook the lead when Arnold doubled with one out in the sixth, and went to third on a Lipton error. Ryan Richardson drove a 1-0 pitch into left field and UCF had a 7-6 lead. But Marshall came up with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, when Rowley led off with a hit, moved to second on Kenny Socorro's sac and moved to third on Yeager's single. Valle came through again, driving in Rowley, then Nate Lape drove in Yeager. In the top of the seventh, Duffy cranked his third home run of the series to lead off, but the Herd answered with a 400-foot, no doubt home run off the bat of DH Victor Gomez. Rowley reached once again, was pulled for pinch-runner Matt Helm when he reached third, but Helm would be balked home by UCF close Justin Weiss.
Victor Gomez launched a 400-foot home run for the Herd in a 12-9 win and sweep of the UCF Knights on Sunday at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va. photo from HerdZone.com
The Knights scored one addition run in the eighth, but the Herd answered with Valle scoring after a hit and Tommy Johnson scoring after a walk on a Lipton double, his team-leading 15th of the year. In the ninth, Shane Farrell entered and got the first two batters with Lipton turning in the defensive play of the game with a diving catch of what appeared to be a sure double off the bat of Brandon Romans, the leadoff hitter. Farrell induced Eric Kallstrom to pop out to Valle, then MU closer Arik Sikula entered and earned his sixth save of the year on a one-pitch pop-up by Tyson Auer to Socorro. Ian Kadish improved to 2-1 with the win in relief and Sikula has tied Chris Meadows for the second-most saves in a single season at Marshall. The record is seven in a year by Nick Wolle in 2007, and Sikula is already tied with Sean Reeder and Ronald Thomas for fifth in all-time saves with six. The record holder there is Meadows with 13.
Marshall will travel next weekend to UAB for three games, then wraps up the home portion of league play on May 2 (7 p.m.), May 3 (7 p.m.) and May 4 (Noon) against Southern Miss. MU will finish league play at Houston the following week. All home conference games are heard on ESPN 930-AM, with a pod cast available after the games at www.wrvc.am on the web.