Marshall Closes Out Regular Season at No. 20 Rice|
May 15, 2013
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall baseball's postseason fate will be determined at the end of this week when the Thundering Herd heads west for Reckling Park in Houston, Texas, for the final series of the regular season against No. 20 Rice beginning Thursday.
Thursday and Friday's start times are set for 7:30 p.m. ET with Saturday's finale scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.
Thursday's opener will be aired on Fox College Sports with Daron Sutton (play-by-play) and Preston Wilson (analysis) calling the action. The remainder of the series will be streamed live through the Herd All-Access video stream. All three games of the series can be followed via CBS GameTracker, available through HerdZone.com.
Marshall (20-31, 6-15 Conference USA) ranks one game ahead of UAB in C-USA standings and needs to match the Blazers in wins over the upcoming weekend to qualify for this year's postseason tournament at Reckling Park. UAB owns any tiebreaker over the Herd, having defeated MU two games to one at the beginning of the league season.
UAB has Tulane (27-25, 10-11 C-USA) in New Orleans, La., Thursday through Saturday. Game times there are scheduled the same as the Marshall/Rice series.
The upcoming weekend will be a tough test for Marshall as Rice (34-17, 12-9 Conference USA), third place in the current C-USA standings, can pass first- and second-place Southern Miss and Memphis (both with 14 league wins) with a sweep of Marshall in the three-game set.
As a club, Rice is the best hitting team in C-USA, boasting a team average of .280 which includes Michael Aquino who bats a fourth-best .337 individually. The Owls also reach base at a more successful rate than any other team in the league (.369).
Rice right-handed pitcher Austin Kubitza (6-4, 2.09) will make the start against Wayland Moore (2-3, 4.70) in the televised opener Thursday night. Kubitza ranks second in C-USA in earned run average and has 103 strikeouts on the season, 10 more than anyone else in the league.
Kubitza's 47 strikeouts recorded against conference hitters are third to Memphis' Sam Moll (50) and Marshall's Aaron Blair (51). Blair has turned in quality starts in his last 10 outings, including going six or more innings with three or less runs in all seven C-USA starts.
Blair has 83 total strikeouts in the 2013 campaign and 199 in his career (sixth all-time among Marshall pitchers). The right-hander is fifth in C-USA earned run average (2.28).
Marshall senior Isaac Ballou leads the Herd in hitting (.325) and ranks eighth overall in C-USA. Ballou is five for his last seven (.714) and enters the series reaching base safely in the last 14 games. Ballou also rides a five-game hitting streak during which time he has three doubles and six runs.
Rice is yet to sweep or be swept by anyone in conference but has been victorious in five of the seven series. The losses were against UCF and Memphis.
Memphis was the last test for the Owls and nearly came away with a sweep, winning 6-3 and 3-1 in games one and two before falling 1-0 in the finale. Rice got its lone run Sunday afternoon off the bat of Shane Hoelscher in the sixth, scoring Christian Stringer on a two-out RBI-single.