By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Marshall University was the state’s last institution of higher learning to release its 2013 baseball schedule.
By the looks of things, it was worth the wait.
The Thundering Herd will play four teams ranked in the preseason, and of course will have an extensive Beckley showing. The team, led by seventh-year head coach Jeff Waggoner, will make at least three appearances at Linda K. Epling Stadium, including a conference series for the first time and a long-awaited meeting with West Virginia University.
Radford will be the opponent for Marshall on March 12 for the Herd’s first Beckley appearance of the season. In fact, it will be Marshall’s first home game of 2013.
After that, Marshall is not scheduled to return to Beckley for two months, but what a return it will be. The Herd will host a three-game set with outoing Conference USA rival East Carolina May 10-12. The first two games, on Friday and Saturday, will start at 7 p.m. The series finale will start at 1 p.m. that Sunday.
After a day off, the Herd will return to Epling Stadium Tuesday, May 14, to take on WVU in the last of a three-game installment. First pitch will be 6 p.m.
The Herd and Mountaineers, who have not played since 2005, are also scheduled to face each other March 19 at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston and April 2 at Hawley Field in Morgantown. Both games will start at 6 p.m.
There are six other home games on Marshall’s schedule at sites that have not been determined, including a three-game series with former Mid-American Conference foe Central Michigan.
“We and Marshall have always had a great experience,” said Doug Epling, owner of Epling Stadium. “We do business with a handshake because there is so much trust among us. And to have that WVU-Marshall game here, I am very, very pleased with that.”
The Herd will play 56 games in all, starting with a three-game set at future C-USA member Old Dominion Feb. 15-17.
The schedule includes games with four teams in the Top 40 preseason rankings of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. They are at No. 8 Kentucky (March 26), at No. 20 Rice (May 16-18), at No. 38 Coastal Carolina (Feb. 24), at No. 36 Southern Miss (April 12-14) and the Beckley series against ECU, which is No. 37.
Six Herd opponents advanced to the NCAA regionals last season: Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Kentucky, Rice, UAB and UCF.
“The players and coaches are extremely excited about this year’s schedule,” Waggoner said. “With the challenge of a very competitive nonconference schedule in addition to the always demanding Conference USA schedule and traveling on the road, we are going to need our eight seniors to step up and lead us.”
— E-mail: gfauber@