Herd Baseball Heads to Lone Star State for C-USA Showdown at No. 25 Rice

The Marshall University baseball team will play its first road Conference USA series, with a trip to the 25th ranked Rice Owls starting Friday at Reckling Park. The Thundering Herd enters the trio of slated games with a 10-13 overall record and 1-2 in league play, while Rice sits at 18-11, 1-2 C-USA.

Game 1 – Fri., 7:30 p.m. ET
MU: RHP Shane Farrell (2-0, 3.03 ERA)
RU: RHP Austin Kubitza (2-3, 1.76 ERA)
Game 2 – Sat., 2 p.m. ET
MU: LHP Mike Mason (1-2, 4.60 ERA)
RU: LHP Abe Gonzales (3-0, 2.48 ERA)
Game 3 – Sun., 11 p.m. ET
MU: RHP Arik Sikula (1-3, 3.26 ERA)
RU: RHP Matthew Reckling (3-0, 2.14 ERA)

INSIDE THE SERIES
The Owls swooped into Charleston last year and took two-of-three against the Herd in the regular season and later ended MU’s tournament run. In the Saturday victory at Power Park, two of the most prestigious hitters in league history had a launch off in Victor Gomez and Anthony Rendon. The sluggers each connected for a pair of homers in the contest, as Gomez knocked in three RBI. 

Game two starter Mike Mason recorded a quality outing as the southpaw worked around 10 hits in 6.1 innings, giving up three earned runs while striking out three. Former members of the Herd, Tyler Gatrell and Austin Coan, earned the win and save respectively.

Gomez and fellow senior James Lavinskas turned in impressive statistics in the four games against the Owls’ pitching staff a year ago. Besides his two-homer game, Gomez finished the 2010 campaign with six hits in 10 at bats (.600), scoring three runs with 12 total bases. Lavinskas clocked a .429 average (6-for-14) hitting behind Gomez in the lineup.

Last season MU hit .300 (39-for-130) against the right and left wings of the Owls, however Rice clubbed at a .380 (57-for-150) clip, including connected for 12 homers.

Rice leads the all-time series 15-2.

ABOUT MARSHALL
A midweek victory against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels by an 8-5 score finds the Herd on the right path entering the series. Highlights from the victory included a pinch-hit two run blast from Thor Meeks, while Isaac Ballou knocked in the game-winning run in the top of the ninth. He finished 2-for-5 with a two runs scored and two stolen bases in the victory.

The Herd is nearing the .500 win mark at 10-13 and has produced strikingly similar numbers to its opponents in 2011. MU is hitting .257 (201-for-783) while the opposition also owns a .257 against the Herd arms (204-for-795). Doubles are squared up at 36 apiece between MU and opponents, while the Herd holds a slight edge in runs scored, 125 to 121.

The batting order of the Herd will have to step and be hungry at the plate in this series after UAB silenced the home squad to the tune of a .181 (19-for-105) hitting clip last weekend. 

HITTER TO WATCH: Rhett Stafford, C/OF
Recently, Stafford has been splitting his time both in the outfield and behind the dish for the Herd. He currently tops the team in homers (3) and RBI (16), adding 10 runs scored and four doubles to his up-to-date stats. He has also produced some lofty numbers against the Rice in his first two years, owning a .323 (10-for-31) average with six doubles, five runs, four RBI and two bombs in eight total games.

PITCHER TO WATCH: Arik Sikula, RHP (Sunday Starter)
Sikula has been almost perfect during his last four outings (three starts) as he has not allowed an earned run over 21.0 innings. During that stretch, Sikula has given up just 15 hits (all singles), while posting 20 strikeouts. In his last start, the righty went 7.0 innings scattering seven hits with seven strikeouts without issuing a free pass versus the Blazers.

SCOUTING REPORT: Rice University
The Owls host the Herd after picking up a pair of midweek wins, defeating Houston 7-0 and Sam Houston State 7-2.  Rice dropped two of three to the UCF Knights during the opening C-USA weekend.

Leading the offense is preseason C-USA Player of the Year Anthony Rendon. One of the most highly touted collegiate prospects, Rendon owns a .340 batting average, has scored 30 runs, three homers, 15 RBI and has walked a league-best 36 times.

Sunday starter, Matthew Reckling owns a perfect 3-0 record with 44 strikeouts in just 33.2 innings on the bump.

MULTIMEDIA
GameTracker, live video streaming and the live MU chat will be available by logging onto HerdZone.com





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