By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
It isn’t the Friends of Coal Bowl, but to baseball fans, it might be just as big.
West Virginia and Marshall will play at 6 p.m. today at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston in the teams’ first meeting in five years.
The state’s two biggest universities will also play Tuesday, May 14, at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley. That will be the third game of the series, with a meeting Tuesday, April 2, in Morgantown sandwiched in.
The teams’ last game was at the BB&T Coastal Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 2008. The Herd scored two runs in the ninth inning, but the Mountaineers held on for a 5-3 win.
WVU and Marshall last met in the Mountain State in 1998, with the Mountaineers taking a 12-11 win at Watt Powell Park in Charleston.
Marshall ace Aaron Blair will start. The right-hander from Las Vegas is 2-1 with a 3.57 earned run average. He dominated Northern Kentucky in his last outing, holding the Norse to three hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking two.
WVU will counter with lefty Zach Bargeron (0-0, 5.06). He started last Tuesday at Pittsburgh and lasted just 1 1/3 innings, giving up one run on one hit.
The Mountaineers (8-11) are coming off a weekend series at Kansas State. They won the first game 13-2 but dropped the next two. It was their first-ever Big 12 Conference series. Despite losing the series, WVU hit .345 as a team.
WVU designated hitter Matt Frazer led the team offensively last week, batting .444 (8-for-18) with six runs, one double, one triple, three home runs and eight RBIs. He recorded a hit in all four games, including going 4-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs in the win over Pitt.
Left fielder Jacob Rice had a stellar week, batting .444 (8-for-18) with six runs, one double, one homer, two RBIs and a stolen base. Rice leads the team in batting average (.413) and runs scored (14).
Marshall (8-10) is led at the plate by sophomore infielder Andrew Dundon, who is hitting .356 on the year with four doubles and nine RBIs. Senior outfielder Gray Stafford is batting .329 with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 12 RBIs, and senior infielder Nathan Gomez is hitting .316 with three doubles, one homer and 10 RBIs.
Marshall is batting .275 as a team with 33 doubles, two triples, four homers and 15 steals in 23 attempts.
The Herd is coming off its first home series of the season, dropping three of four to Central Michigan at Epling Stadium.
Marshall sophomore Andrew Dundon is Marshall’s leading hitter at .356. Dundon, who has struck out only eight times this season, has seven multihit games.
Senior center fielder Isaac Ballou has 104 career walks, second-most in school history. Josh Valle drew 120 from 2007-2010.
WVU leads the all-time series 38-21.
The game can be heard on ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket.
— E-mail: gfauber@