Nate Lape hit his second home run of the day and drove in four to lift Marshall to 6-3 win over Southern Miss. The teams meet at 10 a.m. Sunday for the right to advance to the Conference USA Championship game on Sunday afternoon at Tulane's Turchin Stadium in the C-USA Tournament. photo from Marshall Sports Information at HerdZone.com.
Now, Marshall and Southern Miss will meet at 10 a.m. (All times Eastern) in a playoff game to advance the C-USA Championship game on Sunday afternoon at Turchin Stadium on the Tulane University campus. Marshall beat the Green Wave in Saturday's morning game 8-7, when left fielder Jeff Rowley scored on a wild pitch with two outs in the ninth. That run gave freshman reliever Arik Sikula the win, his second of the season, and Lape hit his 16th home run of the year and drove in three runs.
In the late game against the Eagles, who beat Marshall 2-of-3 in the regular season and 5-3 yesterday, Sikula and Lape were part of what can only be called a true team win. Marshall sent nine pitchers to the mound in the game and banged out 11 hits with every starter but one coming up with at least one hit. Lape hit his 17th home run as well as his 17th double and drove in four runs, giving him 62 for the season, but was hardly the only star. Shortstop Adam Yeager was 2-for-3, including a double in addition to two walks, scored two runs and extended his Marshall single-season steals record by picking up No. 45 on the year.
Huntington High product Adam Yeager continued his tear in the Conference USA Tournament. The transfer from Cincinnati had two hits, two walks, scored two runs and stole is 45th base of the season. photo from HerdZone.com
First baseman Josh Valle was 2-for-5, scored two runs, had a double and drove in a run; left fielder Jeff Rowley was 1-for-3 with a sac bunt and scored a run; third baseman Brandon Casamassima was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk; catcher Tommy Johnson was 1-for-3 with a sac fly; and DH Kurt Lipton was 1-for-3. In all, Marshall scored six runs on 11 hits, four of those either a home run or a double.
As far as pitching, five freshmen, two sophomores and two seniors combined to hold Southern Miss to six hits, all singles, and just three runs. Sophomore Ryan Kiel, who got the win and improved to 3-1, entered in the fourth inning and pitched three innings, tops on the staff versus the Golden Eagles. Kiel allowed just one hit, gave up two walks and struck out three. Freshman Shane Ferrell started and gave Marshall two innings of two hit, no run baseball. Senior Andrew Hancock was the only other pitcher in the "Gang Green" group of hurlers to go more than a couple of batters, pitching 1.1 innings of no hit, no run baseball.
Sikula entered the game in with one out in the ninth, after freshman Ian Kadish allowed a single by James Ewing and a walk to Kyle Maxie. Sikula, the Hurricane, W.Va., freshman, allowed the runners to move to second and third on a wild pitch, but then struck out Drew Carson for the second out. Chris Matesich then beat out a grounder to shortstop to drive in Ewing. Sikula then induced Keith Winstead to fly out to Lape in short right-center field for the new Marshall single-season record for saves with his eighth save of the year. Nick Wolle set the mark in 2007 with seven saves in head coach Jeff Waggoner's first season at the MU helm, but the career record at MU is just five away for Sikula at 13 saves by Chris Meadows earlier this decade.
Marshall got off to another good start in the first when Johnson hit a sac fly to drive in Rowley for a 1-0 lead. The Herd got three more in the third when Lape hit a three-run shot and MU was up 4-0. Back came the Eagles on Bo Davis' two run home run, but the Herd added two more in fifth when Yeager started with a single and stole second. Valle sent Yeager home with a single, then Lape drove in Valle with an RBI double. Southern Miss got the one run in for the ninth, but Sikula closed the door for Marshall's 29th win of the year, extending that single-season record for the second time on the day.
Marshall (29-29-1) and Southern Miss (40-19) will play Sunday morning at 10 a.m., and one team will advance to the title game that is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon. That start time might be flexible, however, since the C-USA web site just posted tonight the championship game will be on tape delay at 10 p.m. on CBS College Sports Network. MU or USM will face either Houston or UAB in the finals. Houston knocked off UAB for the Blazers first loss of the tournament after the Cougars beat UAB earlier today. As of press time, the two teams were in the fourth with Houston holding a 2-0 lead. You can hear the Marshall action live on ESPN 930-AM in Huntington, the MU flagship AM, with Steve Cotton and Brandon Parro at the microphone.