MU Baseball Wins Opener, Plus Olympic Sports

Marshall baseball opened the season pretty much where the Herd left off, with good hitting, good pitching and power baseball at the Wake Forest tournament. With wins over Akron and Old Dominion in the two opening round games on Friday, the Herd baseball program got off to its first 2-0 start since the rookie coaching season of former head coach Howard McCann in 1990. The Herd would finish 2-2.

It was a good weekend for a number of sports at Marshall, as softball picked up two wins at the University of Georgia Softball Classic in Athens, Ga. Women's track broke two school records at Virginia Tech and women's basketball won at UAB and at Memphis to break a six-game losing streak (see stories on lead page for On the other hand, MU tennis fell to Virginia, 5-2, while Ohio beat the Marshall men's golf team in a dual opener at Hilton Head, S.C., where both teams are opening play on Monday at the Wexford Intercollegiate.

Baseball beat Akron in the opener, 9-3, the second year in a row Marshall has won the opener since 17 straight-seasons since 1990 of opening with a loss. Arik Sikula, who saved a school-record eight games last year, won his first game as a collegiate starter with five innings of no runs and just four hits.

Sr. Nate Lape, who led the Herd in home runs and runs batted-in in 2008 and was the pre-season All-Conference USA Player of the Year, started the sixth inning with a two-run home run. Sophomore Kevin Shakleford was 1-for-3 with three RBI. Junior first baseman Josh Valle had two hits, as did sophomore third baseman Victor Gomez.

Later on Friday, the Herd got to 2-0 with a 3-2 win over Old Dominion, a same-day doubleheader. The Herd played six games in three days at the C-USA Tournament last spring when MU was the runner-up in the league, the first finalist finish for Marshall in a tournament since legendary coach Jack Cook's 1989 Herd team was runner-up in the Southern Conference Tournament.

In the game, junior college transfer Austin Coan picked up his first Marshall save with two strikeouts in the ninth. Sr. Herd shortstop Adam Yeager was 3-for-3, including a triple, while freshman designated hitter Thor Meeks hit his first home run at MU in a 3-2 win over ODU. Ryan Kiel won in a five inning, one-run, seven-hit and six strikeout effort. ODU would beat Marshall on Saturday, 9-5, scoring five runs in the fourth. The Herd had five errors, including one by losing pitcher Shane Farrell, who allowed eight runs in four innings on six hits, but only five runs were earned. Sr. Andrew Blain pitched four innings of three-hit, one-run (unearned) and two strikeout baseball in relief. Both Meeks and Lape hit homer number two on the season in the game, and Lape was 2-for-4 to lead the team in hitting. Meeks led the Herd with two RBI.

Finally on Sunday, the Herd lost a heart-breaker to the host Demon Deacons, 7-6, in ten innings. Freshman first baseman Alfredo Brito had an RBI single in the top of the tenth to break a 5-5 tie, but Wake Forest picked up a RBI single and a unearned run for the win. Coan took the loss, pitching 2.2 innings with just two runs, one earned, and two hits while throwing five strikeouts. Sr. left fielder Brandon Cassamassima hit his first home run of the year, and was 2-for-5 with two RBI. Gomez, playing DH against Wake, was 3-for-4 with a home run, his first of the season. Dan Straily started and gave Marshall five innings of five-hit, two-run baseball, although neither run was earned with six errors charged to the Herd. Straily had three strikeouts.

In Softball, Marshall was also 2-2 at the Georgia Tournament. The Herd beat UNC-Greensboro of the Southern Conference, 4-3 in the opener. Katie Murphee pitched a complete game with 10 strikeouts and just two earned runs as the defense had four errors in the win. Jr. Caitlyn Jackson had a hit in her ninth-consecutive game, followed by a RBI single by sophomore Melanie Stoehr and an RBI double by Sr. Kelly Nielson. MU then beat the Jaguars of IUPUI 4-2 later on Friday. Jackson picked up a hit in her tenth-straight game, and pitched a complete game win. Stoehr had two hits and a solo home run, her team-leading eighth RBI of the year.

On Saturday, MU opened with a seventh inning win on an error by Ball State, a former foe from the Mid-American Conference. Sophomore Rachel Rillo, in relief of Murphee, picked up her first win at MU. Freshman Alianna Telles was 2-for-3 with her first Marshall triple and Jackson reached with a hit in her 11th game in a row, in every game the Herd had played this year. No. 16/17 Georgia was a different matter, as the Bulldogs bull-dogged the Herd 9-1. Jackson failed to get a hit in the 12th game of the year, while J.J. Bitner scored the only Herd run in a six-inning, run-rule shortened game. On Sunday, Tennessee Tech rallied from a five run Herd lead to beat Marshall, 9-8. Telles scored in the top of the eighth for the Herd, starting the extra inning with a runner at second under international tie-breaking rules, and scored on a hit by Stoehr. But the Tigers had an RBI double to score their runner from second, then a bases-loaded walk from Rillo gave Tenn. Tech the win. Marshall is 7-6 on the season, was 7-for-7 stealing bases in the loss and were led in hitting by Stoehr and senior Kelly Nielson with two hits each and an RBI, while freshman Rachel Gamby had two RBI in a pinch-hitting role.

Track and field saw junior Rolanda Bruce and freshman Delkira Maybrin break MU records at the Virginia Tech Challenge. Bruce set the record in the 600 meters, posting a time of 1:39.40 and placing seventh. Maybrin was tenth in the 200m with a MU record of :24.97. Junior Molly Grove was fourth in the weight throw with a mark of 16.09m while senior Rachel Bilek was eighth (14.41m) and junior Cara Rumburg was tenth (13.62m). In the shot, Rumburg was sixth (12.30m) and freshman Raivyn Chancellor was ninth (11.90m). Junior Andrea Jackson was fifth in the triple-jump with a mark of 12.43m, while the distance medley relay team was third at 13:34.29 while preparing for this week's Conference USA Indoor Meet in Houston.

Also, men's golf dropped its opener with Ohio by 12-strokes, 306-294 at Hilton Head, S.C. Carson Schambach shot a 74 to lead the Herd while Christian Brand and Phil DiLorenzo shot 77s. OU and MU will be in the Wexford Intercollegiate at Hilton Head on Feb. 23-24.

Meanwhile, The Marshall swimming and diving team wrapped up the Marshall Invitational on Saturday with another round of strong performances and finished fourth overall despite entering only six swimmers. "I was pretty pleased with our results again today" said Marshall head coach Leonard Kraus. "All of out times were season bests and we just off of a few lifetime marks. I was happy that girls seemed to be more aggressive today and really got out and raced."

Karli Alsop finished fourth in the finals of the 400-yard IM with a time of 4:52.38. The junior cut eight seconds off of her preliminary time. Alsop was also third in the 100-yard backstroke, clocking in at 1:03.74. Kim Melinsky finished just behind Alsop, taking fourth in the 100 back. The freshman finished in 1:04.48, marking a season-best in the event as well. Chelsea Lukens took fifth-place in the 100-yard butterfly with a season-best 1:02.61.

On the opening day 2009 on Friday, Lukens, Melinsky and Alsop all set new lifetime-bests, while numerous Herd swimmers set season bests. Melinsky finished fourth in the finals of the 200-yard IM, finishing in 2:18.80 to cut four seconds of off her prelim time from the morning session. Melinsky set a new lifetime-best in the 100-yard freestyle, taking third-place in the final heat with a time of 56.86.

Lukens set a lifetime-best in the 500-yard freestyle with 5:21.93 in the morning session. The freshman came back with a 5:24.48 to take second in the final. Alsop broke her previous best in the 200-yard backstroke, clocking in at 2:16.03 in the premlims. Alsop took third-place in the 200 finals. Freshman Meghan Robinson had a season-best 57.20 in the 100-yard freestyle.

The No. 54 Thundering Herd women's tennis team dropped a 5-2 decision to No. 29 University of Virginia, Saturday morning at the Boar's Head Sports Club. Marshall University fell to 5-5 overall, while the Cavaliers improved to 5-2 so far this season. "Virginia was focused today and was a great team to play," Marshall's head coach John Mercer said.

Virginia swept doubles play starting with the 46th-ranked pair of Jennifer Stevens and Emily Fraser taking an 8-1 decision over the duo of Deanna Bailey and Jessica Keener, at the No. 1 position. Playing the No. 3 slot, Lindsey Hardenbergh and Maggie Yahner defeated Karolina Soor and Thaddea Lock, 8-4. The Herd's team of Kellie Schmitt and Isabell Raich fell 8-4 to Neela Vaez and Amanda Rales, which secured the doubles point for the Cavaliers. "We had some chances today, but we couldn't capitalize on enough of them to break through," said Mercer.The Herd would fight back in singles play but would fall short to the Cavaliers. Virginia took two straight-set matches at the number three and four positions to enhance its lead to 3-0 and go onto the 5-2 win.

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