Thundering Herd Faces No. 9 Rice in Three-Game Slate

Special to HuntingtonNews.Net
Thundering Herd Faces No. 9 Rice in Three-Game Slate

HUNTINGTON, WV -- Marshall baseball will open a three-game series beginning Friday when it hosts No. 9 Rice at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va.


Game Schedule/ Probable Starters:

Game One – Friday, 2:05 p.m. Aaron Blair vs. Matthew Reckling

Game Two – Saturday, 2:05 p.m. Mike Mason vs. Austin Kubitza

Game Three – Sunday, 10:05 a.m. Lance Elder vs. TBA


The Thundering Herd (13-19, 1-5 C-USA) is 2-18 in the all-time series against Rice and enters Friday’s game having lost each of the five previous meetings.  In the most recent meeting, Rice’s Shane Hoelscher doubled in the game winning run in the bottom of the tenth to give the Owls a 5-4 victory.  That game marked the last time Marshall lost on a walk-off hit.


Rice (24-11, 6-3 C-USA) currently ranks third in Conference USA standings and No. 9 in the Baseball America Poll.  The Owls, who peaked at No. 5 in the nation after the opening week of play, are No. 9 in the last five weekly rankings.  They began the season No. 6 in preseason voting. 


Marshall enters the three-game bid after claiming a doubleheader sweep of Coppin State earlier this week.  The Herd pushed 37 runs across the board in 14 frames Tuesday as they cruised by the Eagles 18-1 and 19-1.


Prior to the Coppin State twinbill, Marshall was swept by Memphis in a C-USA series at Appalachian Power Park.  The sweep dealt the Herd is fifth straight league loss and dropped the team to ninth in the standings.


Rice enters the series against Marshall also winnings its last two.  In its mid-week game, the Owls scored five unanswered runs to come from behind and beat Texas State 6-5.  Last weekend saw the Owls grab its third straight conference series victory when they blanked Tulane 5-0 in the Saturday finale.


Rice won the series against Memphis, Southern Miss, and Tulane already this year, taking each two games to one.


Rice brings two of C-USA’s top hitters along with two of the top pitchers to town this weekend.  Juniors Jeremy Rathjen and Christian Stringer rank third and fifth in league batting average.  The two are batting .382 and .367 respectively and have combined for 101 hits, for which they also rank in C-USA. 


In its starting rotation, Rice boasts the C-USA strikeouts leader in Matthew Reckling.  The right-hander has rung up 63 hitters in 53.0 innings and ranks one ahead of Dan Langfield, whom the Herd faced last Friday night in the Memphis series.  Reckling’s perfect 5-0 record is mostly credited to his earned run average of 1.87 (third in C-USA) as well as the fact that he is limiting opposing hitters to just .163 (first in C-USA).


Providing the two in Rice’s one-two, Friday-Saturday punch is Austin Kubitza.  Kubitza was dubbed the preseason pitcher of the year in Conference USA and was one of four Owls voted to the preseason all-conference team.


Marshall centerfielder Isaac Ballou leads the Herd and C-USA in stolen bases this season with 15; no one else in the league has more than 12.  Fellow junior Nathan Gomez ranks seventh in the conference in runs driven in (30).  The first baseman has posted 10 games with multiple RBIs. 


Aaron Blair and Mike Mason are scheduled to make Friday and Saturday starts against Reckling and Kubitza.  Blair’s 49 strikeouts have him ranked fifth in the conference, while Mason follows closely behind with 43 Ks.


The three-game series can be viewed online through the CBS All-Access page.  Audio accompaniment can be found via radio at WRVC-AM (930 AM) or WMUL (88.1 FM).  Gametracker links are provided above.

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