Sweep of Rice makes MU Senior Day special
HUNTINGTON - Marshall University baseball put the finishing touch on the regular season Saturday in grand fashion.
On Senior Day for Marshall on George T. Smailes Field at the Huntington YMCA Kennedy Center, the Thundering Herd defeated the Rice Owls 5-4 to seal a three-game series sweep.
Marshall, 28-26 for the season, finished 14-15 in Conference USA and is seeded sixth for the league tournament. Marshall faces third-seeded Louisiana Tech (34-22, 17-13) at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the first round at MGM Park in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“It starts with Senior Day today,” Marshall head coach Jeff Waggoner said after the game in a HerdZone.com release. “I’m so proud of the seniors, the years they’ve given to Marshall University and for getting their degrees. They’re getting a chance to win a championship like some did their freshman year. This team just showed how tough and resilient they are. Hopefully this momentum carries into the tournament.”
The Herd seniors are Rey Pastrana, Sam Boone, Raul Cabrera, Shane Hanon, Tucker Linder, Steven Nice, Erik Rodriguez, Joshua Shapiro, Riley Storedahl and Andrew Zban.
Rice carried a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning.
Zban led off the home half of the ninth with a solo home run to right field. Luke Edwards singled and Geordon Blanton’s sacrifice bunt moved the base runner to second base. Rodriguez rapped the winning base hit up the middle that brought Edwards home with the winning run.
“It was awesome,” Rodriguez said about his walk-off single. “I got it done for the team. It was a great opportunity for me to do that. After the last two days, I didn’t want today to be the exception. It was a team effort.”
Heading to the bottom of the eighth, Rice had a 3-1 edge. Rodriguez began the inning with a single through the left side and then stole second. Two outs later, Linder smacked the first pitch for a single that scored Rodriguez. Linder advanced to second base on the play before Pastrana delivered an RBI double that tied the game 3-3.
Rice forged a 4-3 lead with one run in the top of the ninth inning.
Ryan Capuano started the game for Marshall on the mound and went 3 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out three.
The the combination of Herd relievers Philip Hoffman, Ryan Falls, Hunter Sexton, Garett Priestley and D’Andre Knight (4-5) gave up just two runs, only one earned, with just three hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in the final 5 1/3 innings.
“It feels great,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been waiting two years to go to the Conference USA Tournament and represent Marshall University, especially for my teammates. It’s everything I’ve wanted.”
Marshall scored its first run in the first inning on a solo homer by Hanon.
The Herd had 10 hits against three Rice pitchers. Rodriguez went 3 for 5 and Linder was 2 for 4. The six hits by the Owls included a solo homer by Justin Collins. Braden Comeaux and Bradley Gnelting both added two hits for the Owls.
Rice moves into the C-USA Tournament as the seventh seed playing second-seeded Southern Miss (34-19, 20-10) at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Top-seeded Florida Atlantic enters the tournament 37-18 overall and 22-18 in the conference.