Herd surging as C-USA tourney opens
HUNTINGTON — Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Marshall University’s baseball team wasn’t sure if the Conference USA Tournament was in its future.
All it took was one weekend to turn the Thundering Herd from an uncertainty to a team that no one necessarily wants to face as the tournament opens Wednesday in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Sixth-seeded Marshall (28-26) will bat leadoff for the tournament, taking on No. 3 seed Louisiana Tech (34-22) at 10 a.m. Wednesday in MGM Park.
Marshall entered the final regular season weekend in a six-team logjam within 1 1/2 games of each other and only two spots available in the C-USA Tournament. Marshall swept a three-game series from Rice to earn a berth.
“Last weekend was an obvious momentum-builder,” Marshall head coach Jeff Waggoner said. “The guys played well and were a resilient team. They feel they can compete with anyone in the tournament.”
Marshall’s success in the Rice series came from the strength of its bullpen and timely hitting throughout the lineup that Waggoner hopes to continue.
“We played as a team and they believed that they could come back,” Waggoner said. “Our pitching was great, our defense was good and we had timely hitting at the end. That’s all solid play as a group and believing in themselves.”
Everything needs to click for the Herd against a Louisiana Tech team with power throughout its lineup.
Senior left-hander Joshua Shapiro, the expected Marshall starting pitcher Wednesday, had one of his better outings of the year against the LA Tech Bulldogs earlier this season when he went 6 2/3 innings while allowing three earned runs on three hits and striking out 12.
Waggoner said every game in tournament play is a grind, and he expects nothing less.
“I think we’re 11-6 in one-run games this year and they’ve shown that they can beat anybody in the league,” Waggoner said. “I think the tournament is up for grabs for any team. Anyone can win it and it’s going to be fun. Hopefully, we get off to a good start.”
Marshall’s offense is led by shortstop Elvia Peralta, who was named an All C-USA first-team selection on Tuesday. Peralta is hitting .352 with nine home runs and 41 RBI while turning 30 double plays in the field.
Shapiro (5-3, 3.58 ERA) was named to the all-conference second team, while outfielder Luke Edwards was named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team.
LA Tech had a pair of all-conference first-team selections in infielder Mason Mallard and relief pitcher Braxton Smith. Bulldogs outfielder Parker Bates and starting pitcher Matt Miller were second-team selections.
MARSHALL (28-26) vs. LOUISIANA TECH (34-22)
When: 10 a.m. Wednesday
Where: MGM Park, Biloxi, Mississippi
Season series: LA Tech leads 2-1
TV (Stream): ESPN+
Radio: ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM