The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

March 14, 2013

Herd has mix of experience, youth

Marshall to start 4-game set against CMU today in Beckley

There is an ample amount of senior leadership for Marshall’s baseball team this year, but many young players are making contributions, too.

That will be evident this weekend when the Thundering Herd makes its first appearance of the season at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley. Marshall (7-7) will host Central Michigan in a four-game series that starts today with a noon doubleheader.

The Herd is riding a four-game winning streak, all courtesy of last weekend’s sweep of Northern Kentucky, the alma mater of assistant coach Joe Renner. It was an encouraging couple of days for head coach Jeff Waggoner.

“We got better this weekend, but we still have some things we need to work on,” Waggoner said. “We have to get better in the running game, we need to get better on defense, we need to do a better job of getting the ball in play and we need to grind out at-bats with two strikes.”

The weather has not been kind to Marshall early on. Even the series with Northern Kentucky had to be adjusted to accommodate for poor weather before the Herd got into a groove.

“The weather, even when we went down south, we have some adversity we had to deal with,” Waggoner said. “Then you go back (home) Tuesday and Wednesday (for practice) and there is snow all over the field, and all you can do is hit inside.

“The most important thing to come out of last weekend was that we got to play four games. We needed that.”

Third baseman Gray Stafford, a former West Virginia Miner, is hitting .339 for the Herd and leads Conference USA with seven doubles. First baseman Nathan Gomez has driven in a team-high nine runs for Marshall, while center fielder Isaac Ballou has eight RBIs. All are seniors.

Marshall’s leading hitter is sophomore second baseman Andrew Dundon, whose .370 average is seventh in C-USA. Sophomore right fielder Eric Escobedo has eight RBIs, and sophomore shortstop Sergio Leon, also a former Miner, increased his average to .262 last weekend.

They are among a group of young players who have stood out for Marshall.

“We still have some seniors, but we have a lot of talented new players,” Waggoner said. “We will be starting three freshmen on the mound. They will have their hands full against Central Michigan.”

Chase Boster (1-1, 2.84 earned run average) will start today’s first game against the Chippewas‘ Jordan Foley (3-0, 0.99). Starting the second game for the Herd will be Alex Thackston (0-0, 2.53) versus CMU’s Pat Kaminski (1-3, 6.43).

Senior Wayland Moore (2-1, 3.86) will get the nod in Game 3 at noon Saturday against Dylan Rheault (0-0, 6.00), then it’s back to the freshman class and Michael Taylor (1-1, 1.17) for the finale at noon Sunday. Central Michigan will counter with Rick Dodridge (1-1, 2.19).

Marshall has not played Central Michigan since 2005, its final season in the Mid-American Conference. The Chippewas have won eight straight in a series they have dominated to the tune of an 11-1 overall record.

CMU finished runner-up to Kent State in last year’s MAC Tournament. The Golden Flashes went on to play in the College World Series.

The Chippewas return a load of talent, including Foley, against whom opponents are batting just .175. Foley has 25 strikeouts to just five walks in 27 1-3 innings pitched. He beat West Virginia 4-1 last Friday for the 2,000th win in program history.

“They have some good, talented arms,” Waggoner said. “They are a better team than their record shows, just like a lot of northern teams this time of the year. They are aggressive on the basepaths. They are 30 for 36 in stolen bases.

“They have outstanding talent. They just need to play more.”

Admission each day is $5 for adults and $3 for students.

The doubleheader was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was moved to today because of weather concerns.

— E-mail: gfauber

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