Baseball Team Preps for Showdown with Ohio
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – History is not on the side of the Thundering Herd baseball team as it prepares to travel to Athens, Ohio, to take on arch-rival Ohio University on Friday at 3 p.m. in the first of a four-game series with the Bobcats. The series then shifts to University Heights for a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday before returning to Bob Wren Stadium for Sunday’s finale at 1 p.m.
Ohio (13-10, 1-3 MAC) is riding a 16-game winning streak versus Marshall (10-15-1, 1-3 MAC), dating back to the 1999 season, with the Bobcats outscoring the Thundering Herd 166-79 in that span. The last time a Marshall team defeated Ohio was in 1998, when the Thundering Herd swept both ends of a doubleheader on April 26 in Athens at the then brand-new Bob Wren Stadium. Ohio leads the all-time series 100-34.
However, the history books can be thrown out the window when these two schools meet, as is the case when any two rival teams take to the playing field, especially those that are as close together on the map as Huntington and Athens are.
“Our team is new and young, so that history stuff doesn’t matter to us too much,” Marshall head coach Dave Piepenbrink said. “We come out to play hard no matter what the standings or record books say.”
Marshall brings a revamped roster to the series this year, with 17 newcomers in the Herd dugout. Francois Larmore (Magnolia, N.J.) is a transfer from Gloucester County C.C. that is making waves in his first season wearing Marshall green. The junior right fielder leads the Mid-American Conference in home runs (10), and stands at the top of several other conference statistical categories, including runs scored (24), runs batted in (26), total bases (67) and slugging percentage (.684).
“Francois has been playing some great baseball since day one,” Piepenbrink said, “and he continues to work hard in order to improve.”
Scott Henning (Wilmington, Del.), Chris Koutsavlis (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Matt LaFleur (Chesapeake, Va.), Josh McConnell (Phenix City, Ala.), Corie O’Bryan (Frederick, Md.) and Steve Ziroli (LaGrange, Ill.) are a few of the other Marshall newcomers to have made an impact thus far in 2003. Ziroli leads the pitching staff in ERA (5.24) for those with 20 plus innings worked and O’Bryan leads the team with 34 base hits, which is near the league high.
Marshall’s veterans continue to produce, led by junior shortstop Mike Koitsopoulos (Markham, Ont.) whose 12 multiple-hit games lead the squad along with stellar defense up the middle. Grant Harper (Grayson, Ky.) and Rick Suter (St. Clairsville, Ohio) are tied for the team lead with 26 strikeouts and stand one-two in the pitching rotation. RHP Chris Meadows (Huntington, W.Va.) has appeared in a league-high 13 games and has saved two games for the Herd this season.
“This is obviously a big weekend for us because conference games are extremely important to the success of any team,” Piepenbrink said. “Playing well enough to win this series would get us moving in the right direction and get us closer to playing .500 ball.”
Ohio brings a three-game losing streak to game one on Friday. The Bobcats dropped a 3-2 decision at Xavier on Tuesday after getting outscored 26-9 in the final two games of its MAC-opening series versus Miami.
Marshall won its last two games, including a 6-5 come from behind win over the visiting Morehead State Eagles on Tuesday. Roddy Stieger (Westchester, Ohio) hit an eighth inning, two-run home run to lift MU to victory.
An intriguing aspect to this series is that it marks the first time that Marshall transfer Clay DeSantis will face his old teammates. DeSantis tied for the team lead in batting average (.359) with current Herd first baseman Craig Dziedziejko (Kitchener, Ont.) in 2002. The catcher started 35 games last season for Marshall before leaving the program to enroll at Ohio.
Saturday’s doubleheader will be broadcast live on WRVC 930-AM by the voice of the Herd, Steve Cotton, along with Ricky Hazel. Those outside the Huntington area who would like to listen live to all four games can log on to the Ohio Sports Network via the internet. The web addresses for these broadcasts can be accessed through the links above.
Probable Pitching Rotation
Game 1: Grant Harper, MAR (2-4, 6.15 ERA) vs Chris Bova, OU (2-1, 3.57 ERA)
Game 2: Marc Cornell, OU (4-2, 4.54 ERA) vs Rick Suter, MAR (0-3, 6.57 ERA)
Game 3: Walt Novosel, OU (2-3, 4.66 ERA) vs Chris Koutsavlis, MAR (3-1, 5.94 ERA)
Game 4: Fritz Conrad, MAR (1-2, 5.60 ERA) vs Rob Harmon, OU (1-0, 6.48 ERA)