Marshall University's Tommy Johnson and Victor Gomez blasted grand slams in consecutive innings, while Nate Lape went deep for the 12th time this season to help pace the Thundering Herd to a 10-9 victory over UAB in Saturday afternoon's Conference USA baseball game at Jerry D. Young Memorial Field. The Herd bounced back after dropping a 15-3 game to the Blazers on Friday night to even its record at 21-21-1, 8-8-1 in Conference USA.
Leading 9-6, Lape drilled his 12th home run of the season to deep left field, and first since April 1 when he hit three against Dayton, to give Marshall a 10-6 lead in the ninth. The blast proved to be the winning run as UAB rallied in the ninth. Down 10-6, UAB rallied for three runs when Luke Stewart blasted a two-out three-run home run to right field to bring the Blazers to within one at 10-9 in the bottom of the ninth. Herd freshman reliever Arik Sikula, who entered at the beginning of the ninth, forced a fly out to right field to end the game and give the Herd the split of the first two games. Game three is Sunday afternoon.
Herd starter Steve Blevins, now a team-best 6-2 and 4-1 in C-USA games, earned the win as he scattered six hits over seven innings and struck out four batters en route to the win of the year. Blazers' starter Mitch Kloskowski (5-4) suffered the loss. UAB loaded the bases in the bottom of the second with a hit a walk and a hit batter, but Blevins hurled two strikeouts and used a ground out to third to retire the next three batters without allowing a run to score.
Marshall made some noise in the top of the third when Ben Jurevicius singled into center and advanced to third on a single by Brandon Casamassima to right center, extending his hitting streak to seven games. The Herd then executed a brilliant double-steal as Casamassima soared into second base allowing Jurevicius to scamper home with the first run of the game. Casamassima then moved to third on a balk before Josh Valle drew a two-out walk to place runners on the corners before Kloskowski issued his second strikeout of the game to strand the runners and hold the score to 1-0. The last Herd player to steal home was Brendan Murphy, who did so against Niagara, March 13, 2006.
Back in Huntington on the new Dot Hicks Field, across Third Avenue from the football stadium, The Marshall University Thundering Herd softball team split its doubleheader with the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane with a 3-1 victory in game one, but fell in the Conference USA doubleheader finale, 4-3. The Herd (24-27, 11-9) collected nine total hits in the two contests. Seniors Rachel Folden, Samantha Rodriguez and sophomore Melanie Stoehr guided the Herd with a home run and two hits during Saturday's action.
Sophomore southpaw Caitlyn Jackson (11-15) was credited with the victory in the opener after pitching a complete-game, limiting the Golden Hurricane to one run from four hits with one strikeout. Junior pitcher Autumn Mitchell (9-5) picked up the loss in the second game, going 4.1 innings allowing four runs off eight hits.
Tulsa (29-21, 10-10) was led by Christian Timmons, who went 3-for-4 in the second game with an RBI. Brooke Smart followed with two more hits and an RBI to pace the Golden Hurricane to its 10th-conference victory of the season. Golden Hurricane's Jordan Kinard (11-5) gave up all three Herd runs in the game one contest, but with only one ruled earned. In the second game, Jackie Lawrence (12-8) earned the complete-game victory, allowing three runs, but struck out nine Herd batters.