Marshall Baseball Finishes Banner Year

Marshall fell just short of winning its first-ever Conference USA championship in baseball when Houston pulled out a 3-2 win on an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth. Four MU players were named to the C-USA All-Tournament team, the first players honored with such an honor since Dave Piepenbrink was All-Tournament in 1990's Southern Conference tourney.

Four players being named to the All-Tournament team meant it was the first time since 1990 when former Marshall head coach and player Piepenbrink was named in 1990 at the SC tourney. The Herd had never had anyone else honored in a baseball tourney until juniors Adam Yeager, Nate Lape, Steve Blevins and sophomore Dan Straily were named to the C-USA All-Tournament team. Lape was a first-team All-Conference USA player, while Blevins had been named, along with freshman Victor Gomez, the the C-USA second team. Gomez was also a second-consecutive All-Freshman selection in C-USA, following Josh Valle in 2007.

Four wins in this year's C-USA Tournament evens the Herd's record in post-season to 4-4 as a member of the nation's fifth best league, according to RPI. Marshall was beaten in the 2006 C-USA Tournament by Houston, 9-1, at Reckling Park in Houston, Texas, then lost to Tulane in eight innings, 12-1, on the mercy 10-run rule in tournament play. The Southern Conference, which MU belonged to from 1978-98 for baseball, didn't start tournament play until 1985. MU won league outright in 1978 and were tied for first with East Tennessee State and Western Carolina in 1981. Marshall was the runner-up in the SC in 1985 and 1989 but posted only a 8-16 all-time in SC tournament play for 1985-95 (MU was last in SC, and ineligible for the tourney, in 1996 and 1997. Marshall never made the Mid-American Conference as a member from 1998-2005.


Marshall junior Adam Yeager, who played for Huntington High and the University of Cincinnati before returning home in 2008 to play for the Herd, was one of four players named to the All-Tournament team in the C-USA tourney last week, and broke game and season records. photo from HerdZone.com.

The Herd was 72nd in the RPI following the championship, and its strength of schedule was 42nd in the nation, according to WarrenNolan.com, a college baseball website. Both are all-time highs for the Marshall program, and proof of how tough the Herd's schedule was came on Monday when the pairings for the NCAA Regionals were released on ESPN. Five teams from Conference USA were chosen among the 64 teams and nine Marshall opponents in 2008 in all made the list. The five bids tie for the most in C-USA history, matching the five selections during the 2002 season. Only the SEC (9), ACC (6) and Big 12 (6) had more bids than Conference USA.

The Rice Owls (42-18), who lost two and was the first team out of the C-USA Tournament, are the a No. 1-seed, and are seeded sixth overall in the tournament. Rice will host the Houston regional. Rice won the 2003 College World Series. The Southern Miss Golden Eagles (40-20) is a two-seed in Baton Rouge, La., hosted by LSU, and so are the East Carolina Pirates (40-19) at the Conway, S.C., hosted by Coastal Carolina. Also in the field are the Houston Cougars (39-22), a No. 3 at College Station, Tex. (host-Texas A&M), and the Tulane Green Wave (37-20-1), a No. 3 at Tallahassee, Fla. (host-Florida State). Also in the field, and on the Herd's schedule this year, is N.C. State, a No. 1 at home in Raliegh, N.C. Coastal Carolina is a No. 1 seed at home in Conway, while Kentucky is at Ann Arbor, Mich. (host-Michigan), and Louisville is at Athens, Ga. (host-Georgia, where former Marshall assistant Dave Perno is the head coach). The Herd was 7-17-1 versus teams playing in the NCAA Tournament.


Nate Lape, Marshall's All-Conference USA center fielder, was All-Tournament last week as well when the Herd lost to the Houston Cougars in the C-USA championship. photo courtesy of HerdZone.com.

Despite the loss for the Herd, there are certainly many things to take from the run to the title game, though coach Jeff Waggoner had made the Herd's goal for the 2008 season was to reach an NCAA Regional, something the program had not done since 1978. Marshall won 30 games without actually playing a game in the city of Huntington, W.Va., the entire season, hosting C-USA games in Charleston for the third straight season and having "home" games in Louisa, Ky., Montgomery, W.Va., and in Wayne County just outside of town at Spring Valley High School.

This title game was MU's first trip to a championship since falling to Western Carolina in the 1989 Southern Conference tournament final. In 2007, Marshall set the second-longest losing streak in C-USA history when they had lost 17 in a row from April of 2006 until April of 2007, and lost 16 in a row from March 23 through April 21, 2007, the fourth worst in-season streak in league history, so it is easy to see how much the Herd improved in year two of the Waggoner era.


Dan Straily, a transfer to MU from Western Oregon University, pitched well for the Herd in the C-USA Tournament and was named to the All-Tournament team, along with fellow pitcher Steve Blevins. photo from HerdZone.com

Season records set or tied in 2008 include:
TEAM (former record)

Wins - 30 (27, 1978 and 2004)
At bats - 2,080 (1,863, 2004)
Hits - 624 (567, 2001)
Stolen bases - 107/135 (82/104, 1999)
Strikeouts - 402 (390, 2003)
Attendance - 50, 383 (being researched)
Innings pitched - 516.2 (461.1, 2006)
Saves - 9 (ties 2003 and 2006)

INDIVIDUALS (where the record stands in Top Five for season leaders)
Games played - 1) 61 - Adam Yeager, 2008; 2) 60 - Josh Valle, 2008; 3) 59 - Nate Lape, 2008; 4) 58 - Brandon Casamassima, 2008; 5) 57 - Victor Gomez and Jeff Rowley, 2008
At bats - 4) 214, Nate Lape, 2008
Hits - 2) 83 - Nate Lape, 2008
Runs scored - 3) 62 - Nate Lape, 2008; 4) 59 - Adam Yeager, 2008
Triples - 2) 5 - Adam Yeager, 2008 (tied with Jim Reynolds, 1994)
Home Runs - 5) 17 - Nate Lape, 2008
Walks - 4) 34 - Adam Yeager, 2008 (tied with Vance Bunn, 1985)
Strikeouts - 2) 49 - Nate Lape, 2008 (tied with Roddy Stieger, 2005)
Stolen bases - 1) 47 - Adam Yeager, 2008
Pitching starts - 2) 15 - Dan Straily, 2008 (tied with five other players/Jeremy Sloan, 2006; Chris Fritz, 2002; Sean Reeder, 1999; J.R. Watts, 1998 and 1996; Matt Spade, 1994)
Appearances - 2) 28 - Arik Sikula, 2008 (tied with Chris Meadows, 2004; 5) 27 - Andrew Hancock, 2008
Innings pitched - 4) 98.0 - Steve Blevins, 2008
Games won - 1) 9 - Steve Blevins, 2008 (tied with J.R. Watts, 1998)
Saves - 1) 9- Arik Sikula, 2008

CAREER MARKS SET (Top 10 all-time)
Doubles - 9) 31 - Tommy Johnson, 2005-08 (tied with Chris Hall/1987-90 and Ryan Roush/1995-98)
Steals 4) 47 - Adam Yeager, 2008 (record is 60, Chris Monaco/2004-06); 9) 26 - Nate Lape, 2007-08
Appearances - 3) 70 - Andrew Hancock, 2005-08; 6) 61 - Adam Dobies, 2005-08 (tied with Chris Koutsavlis/2003-06)
Saves - 3) 8 - Arik Sikula, 2008 (record is 13, Chris Meadows/2001-04)
Last Time Marshall Had A Player Steal Five Bases - Adam Yeager vs. Tulane, C-USA Tournament record, May 21, 2008 (5-for-6 attempts).

In addition to Yeager setting a C-USA Tournament single game record, and Marshall record, with five steals in the first win over Tulane, he also set the C-USA Tournament record for steals in a series with a 9-of-11 tournament (former record was six steals in 2000 by Will Smith of UAB in four games). Marshall as a team was 20-for-22 on stolen bases, another tournament record (12 in 2001 by Tulane in six games was the former record). Lape's ten RBI is tied for fifth-best in the league tournament and Yeager's four runs scored versus Tulane in game one is tied with 14 other players for 4th-best in a game.


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