For the last 19 years, Lou Pavlovich of Collegiate Baseball has put together a team that features a remarkable collection of coaches and athletes who typify what the game should be all about. In just his second season at the helm, Waggoner led the Thundering Herd baseball program to its most wins ever, compiling a school-record 30 wins and a spot in the 2008 Entergy Conference USA Baseball Tournament championship game against Houston, who was a NCAA Regional team. Marshall did this despite playing no games in Huntington, including Conference USA games which were played at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va. for the third-consecutive year.
Other "home" games were played in Louisa, Ky.; East Bank and Spring Valley, W.Va., while the Herd traveled for two games at long-time rivals Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and Ohio University. The 30-30-1 mark is only the second non-losing season for Marshall since 1994, and the total of 14 wins over teams in the MU conference is an all-time high for the program.
Marshall Head Coach Jeff Waggoner was named to the All-Pavlovich of Collegiate Baseball newspaper on Monday. Waggoner led the Herd to a MU record 30 wins and the finals of the C-USA Tournament despite not playing a single game in Huntington, home of Marshall University. photo from HerdZone.com.
In the championship game, the Herd fell 3-2 in the game on an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth. The game was played just one hour after Marshall's Sunday morning win over Southern Miss to advance to the title game. Marshall won twice on Friday and twice on Saturday, due to a rain delay on Thursday, to advance to Sunday's double-dip for the C-USA title, despite the heat and humidity of New Orleans.
After posting a 21-32 overall record, 5-18 mark in C-USA, in 2007, Marshall finished sixth in one of the toughest baseball leagues in the nation by posting 10 wins, its most since joining the conference in 2005. RPI had C-USA rated as the fifth-best league in college baseball, and the Herd had been picked ninth in the pre-season after missing the 2007 C-USA Tournament and losing two quick games to Houston and Tulane in its first C-USA Tournament in 2006.
Marshall entered the 2008 C-USA Championship as the sixth seed and defeated No. 3-seed, and host, Tulane twice, 10-5 and 8-7, then beat No. 2-seed Southern Miss twice, 6-3 and 5-3, out of the losers bracket when the Golden Eagles won the first tournament meeting, 5-3, on Friday morning. Both the Green Wave and USM were NCAA Regional participants along with Rice (who advanced to the College World Series) and East Carolina. Marshall came up just one run short of its first NCAA Regional appearance since 1978, and the appearance in the championship game was the first for the MU program since 1989 in the Southern Conference. Legendary Marshall Coach Jack Cook took Marshall to the NCAA Regionals in 1973 and 1978, to the SC finals in 1985 and 1989 and won the SC title in 1978 and 1981.
Waggoner has done a terrific job in his two years as skipper of the Herd, coming to Marshall as a former assistant at N.C. State and Kent State. He has brought in several top performers including Nate Lape, a 2007 transfer from North Carolina, Adam Yeager and Steve Blevins, both 2008 transfers from Cincinnati, and freshman Victor Gomez. Lape was first team All-Conference USA, while Gomez and Blevins were second team. Gomez was named to the All-Freshman team for C-USA and to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team. Lape, Yeager, Blevins and pitcher Dan Straily were All-Tournament at the C-USA Tournament at Tulane's Turchin Stadium.
Lape, Blevins and senior catcher Tommy Johnson were all drafted in the Major League Baseball Draft on June 5-6, along with Cincinnati-area recruit Greg Williams of Moeller High School. Johnson signed with the Seattle Mariners and is currently with the Pulaski (Va.) Mariners in the Appalachian League while Blevins signed with the Minnesota Twins and is currently starting for the Gulf Coast Twins in the Gulf Coast League in Florida. Lape and Yeager are playing this summer in the Cape Cod League for the Brewster Whitecaps. The Cape Cod League is America's premier summer collegiate wooden bat league. Williams, Yeager and Lape, drafted in the 20th round by the Colorado Rockies, will return to Huntington for the Herd's 2009 season.
Waggoner, on the road recruiting for the 2010 signing class, was very pleased to be named by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, in a statement released by Marshall's sports information department on Sunday. "It's a great honor to be recognized by such a prestigious organization. Any time you receive an honor like this, it means a great deal to the whole program. I could not have done any of this without my coaching staff or players," Waggoner said. "All of our accomplishments this season were possible because of them."