May 24, 2008
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Sixth-seeded Marshall received a 2-for-4 performance from Nate Lape, and nine Thundering Herd pitchers allowed just six No. 2 Southern Miss hits in a 6-3 win in Saturday evening's 2008 Entergy Conference USA Baseball Championship game at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
With the win, Marshall (29-29-1) and Southern Miss (40-19) will play in an elimination game at 10:00 a.m. ET for the right to play the winner of the No. 8 UAB and No. 4 Houston game. The winners of each game will determine Sunday's championship game.
Trailing 6-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Southern Miss plated a run, but Herd reliever Arik Sikula shut the door on the Golden Eagles to pick up his eighth save of the season, a school single-season record, passing Nick Wolle who had seven in 2007.
Herd reliever Ryan Kiel (3-1), the fourth Marshall pitcher who entered in the fourth inning, picked up the win while Southern Miss starter Brian Leach (2-3) suffered the loss for the Golden Eagles.
"I'm proud of our guys," head coach Jeff Waggoner said. "Our guys really fought hard all day. It was a hot day, and our guys really believed that they could get it done and they just came out and played hard all day. That's what it's about, great games all day."
Marshall got things going in the top of the second when Jeff Rowley laced a one-out single to left field, before moving all the way to third on a pair of walks to the next two batters. Tommy Johnson then drove in Rowley with game's first run on a sacrifice fly to right, advancing Brandon Casamassima to third. Leach was able to toss a strikeout to strand runners at the corners, preserving the 1-0 deficit.
led off the Marshall third with a walk and then advanced to third on a single to left center field off the bat of Josh Valle
before Lape cleared the bases with his 17th home run of season and second of the day and third of the tournament, to give the Herd a 4-0 advantage. Leach then struck out the side to prevent further damage.
After two strong innings, Herd starter Shane Farrell was relieved by Adam Dobies. After a groundout, Corey Stevens reached on a throwing error by Casamassima. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and then came full circle on a two-run blast to left by Bo Davis. That knocked Dobies out of the game in favor of Justin Moore who retired the next two batters in order. However, Southern Miss cut the Herd lead to 4-2.
Marshall extended its lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth when Yeager reached with his second walk of the game, stole his 45th bag of the season (seventh of the tournament) and then scored on an RBI single by Valle. That knocked Leach from the game in favor of Jonathan Johnston. Lape smacked a run-scoring double to right field, but was rundown trying to go to third on a 9-4-2 putout. Johnston retired the next two batters to end the Marshall threat.
Kiel who entered in the fourth, rolled through the fourth and fifth innings, retiring all six batters he faced.
Leading 6-2, Casamassima doubled to center to leadoff the Marshall sixth inning and was later thrown out from left field trying to score on a single by Johnson. Johnston then fired a strikeout to halt the Herd attack.
After Houston Brown came on in the seventh inning and twirled a one-two-three inning for the Golden Eagles, Trey Sutton led off the Southern Miss seventh with a single and then advanced to second on a throwing error by Yeager on the play. A walk to Kyle Maxie put two aboard with no outs. Andrew Hancock then came in for Kiel and was able to dispatch the next three Golden Eagles.
Kiel pitched three fantastic innings allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out three batters. Hanckcock pitched a solid inning and a third before being lifted in the eighth in favor of Tyler Gatrell, who issued a strikeout for the second out of the frame. Kenny Socorro (who last pitched on April 15 against Eastern Kentucky) came on after one batter and forced a fly out to center field to end the inning.