Feb. 14, 2011
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The first pitch of the 2011 baseball season is just days away and what better group of Marshall student-athletes to look at then the individuals that will be making those pitches during the upcoming spring for the Thundering Herd. The staff features 18 pitchers, including 10 newcomers to help the Herd compete in the ever challenging Conference USA.
MU features eight returners from last season’s squad, three of which had their seasons cut short due to injury. Leading the arms will be senior right-hander Arik Sikula, who was a 2010 First Team All-C-USA selection.
Returners (8): LHP Kyle Blank (Sr.), RHP Joe Church (So.), RHP Shane Farrell (Jr.), RHP Ian Kadish (Sr.), LHP Mike Mason (Jr.), RHP Arik Sikula (Sr.), RHP James White (Jr.) and LHP Greg Williams (Jr.).
Departures (7): LHP Mark Cann, RHP Mike Cavalli, RHP Austin Coan, LHP Ben Frith, RHP Tyler Gatrell, LHP Ryan Kiel and RHP Kevin Shackelford.
Notes: Last season, Sikula became the first pitcher at Marshall to be named a First Team All-C-USA selection…Blank led C-USA and set a school record for appearances (35)…Kadish replaces Coan as the closer…Church, Farrell and Williams were limited in 2010 due to injuries.
Newcomers (10): RHP Aaron Blair (Fr.), RHP Ryan Butler (Fr.), RHP Jesse Fernandez (Jr.), LHP Joe Hollowell (So.), RHP Josh King (Fr.), RHP Hunter May (Fr.), LHP Eric Meleney (Fr.), RHP Erin McGee (Jr.), RHP Terrence Moore (So.) and RHP Austin Pratt (Sr.).
Notes: Blair was a 21st round selection by the Houston Astros…Butler earned the 2010 Charlotte Player of the Year award…five of the newcomers are transfers.
Notes: Coan left as the Marshall all-time leader in saves (20)…Gatrell (Kansas City Royals), Kiel (Seattle Mariners) and Shackelford (Milwaukee Brewers) all signed minor league deals.
Starting Rotation: The 2011 starting rotation has three upperclassmen penciled in to lead the weekend slate of games for the Herd in Farrell, Mason and Sikula. Farrell made five starts last season before suffering an injury, allowing him to redshirt.
Mason, a southpaw, will look for a more consistent junior campaign after an up-and-down second season in Huntington. The Maumee, Ohio, native looked unstoppable at times on the bump in 2010. He held then No. 25 Rice to three earned runs over 6.1 innings and Houston to two earned runs in 7.0 frames in consecutive starts in May. He also collected 10 strikeouts in just five innings against eventual C-USA Tournament Champion Southern Miss. Consistency from start-to-start will be crucial when Mason pitches to help solidify the weekend rotation for the Herd.
In his senior season, Sikula enters his final campaign for Marshall as the active leader in wins (10), appearances (63), saves (8), innings pitched (147.1) and strikeouts (129). During his time with the Herd, he has been an extremely versatile pitcher, serving as the team closer, long reliever, set up man and starter. After joining the weekend rotation prior to the start of conference play in 2010, Sikula fired five quality starts out of eight against league opponents.
A mixture of Blair, Butler, Hollowell, King, May and Pratt are all viable mid-week starters and are options for the weekend rotation.
Bullpen: Friday night starter Ian Kadish is making the transformation back to the bullpen where he pitched as a freshman and sophomore. After making 15 starts a season ago, Kadish will serve in the closer’s role, vacated by 2010 graduate Austin Coan.
Blank and White, righty and lefty sidearm specialists are back to provide matchup nightmares in the later innings against opponents along with stability to the bullpen. Blank topped the conference in appearances (35), while White ranked third with 31 trips to the mound.
Marshall opens up the season on Friday against Miami (Ohio) at the College of Charleston Invitational. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.