Herd needs sweep vs. La. Tech

The numbers say it all: Marshall is 2 1/2 games out of making the eight-team Conference USA baseball tournament with nine league games to go.

Louisiana Tech sits well behind the Thundering Herd, in the basement of the 13-team league. The Bulldogs travel to Appalachian Power Park, MU’s home away from home.

Yes, the Herd needs to win its first league series since April 4-6 against Florida Atlantic. But really, MU needs a sweep.

But the Herd can’t do that with a victory tonight, in a game that begins at 7.

“They’re in the same boat, but this is a great conference,” said MU coach Jeff Waggoner. “There’s a sense of urgency on both clubs. Again, it’s going to come down to playing great defense, pitching and timely hits.

“Let’s just worry about winning Game 1.”

The Herd couldn’t win a game this past week because it couldn’t play. The last two midweek games, against Eastern Kentucky in Huntington and West Virginia in Charleston, were canceled by persistent rain.

That robbed Marshall (18-24 overall, 8-12 C-USA) its final chance to try to find its collective hitting stroke in a midweek game. In 42 games, the Herd is hitting just .234 as a team, with only four home runs. Last year, the Herd hit .256 with 10 homers in 54 games.

Behind the numbers, there are scattered stories that tell how Marshall let itself down at the plate. For instance, in a sixth inning at Alabama-Birmingham, the Herd scored twice to tie the game with none out, yet couldn’t push another run across. Result? UAB wins 3-2 in 10 innings.

“We had chances this weekend,” Waggoner said. “Second and third and one out with the middle of the lineup, and we didn’t get the job done.”

Marshall’s weekend rotation probably deserves better. Matt Magaritonda’s earned-run average is a respectable 3.92, but he is 2-5. St. Albans native Michael Taylor is lower at 2.66, but he is 2-6. Chase Boster, a late rotation addition who has started four games, is 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA.

“That’s all you can ask from your starting rotation,” Waggoner said.

BRIEFLY: The series continues at 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday. ... Josh King, the senior ace with a 2-2 record and a 2.60 ERA, had Tommy John surgery Wednesday morning. Waggoner said MU is trying to get King a redshirt season. Ex-Herd outfielder Issac Ballou returned to Appalachian Power Park last week with the Hagerstown Suns. He had a good four-game series, going 6 for 18 with a home run.

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

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