Herd wins in extras, sews up CUSA tourney spot

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. The Thundering Herd baseball team (27-26, 13-15) used a team performance to clinch series win and a berth in The First 2019 C-USA Baseball Championship presented by Air Force Reserve with a 4-3 victory over Rice in 10 innings at the Kennedy Center on Friday.

This is the first series win over the Owls and it’s the first in the C-USA Tournament since 2016.

“It’s amazing the way that we hang in there, it shows the toughness of the team,” 13th-year head coach Jeff Waggoner said after tournament clinching win on Friday. “Our pitchers did a great job of just keeping us right there. Other than a few pitches, they threw really well. Our offense is good. It struggled a little bit early, but we still had good swings on the ball. They were just outs, but we put it together at the end. It was a fun game to be a part of.”

The Herd trailed 3-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. Elvis Peralta, Jr., led the inning off with a walk. A ground out by Tucker Linder moved him to second. After a Rey Pastrana strikeout, Zach Inskeep stepped to the plate with two outs. The junior designated hitter then smoked a ball to fence in left center for a RBI-double, his second double of the game, to cut the deficit to 3-1.

“I was not thinking about a homer,” Raul Cabrera said about his game tying homer in the eighth. “I was just thinking about getting a hit and getting the next guy up. Since I hadn’t hit a home run this, I didn’t think it was gone off the bat so I took off as fast as possible out of the box.”

Cabrera was the next batter. After taking a pair of balls, a foul and a swinging strike, the third baseman was down to his last strike. Cabrera didn’t take any chances and put a thundering swing on the next pitch for a home run to left, erupting the Marshall dugout into a frenzy as he tied the game 3-3.

“It’s exciting. Words can’t describe this feeling right now,” Cabrera said on reaching the conference tournament for the first time in his career.

Michael Guerrero threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning and after MU failed to score in the bottom half of the inning, returned to the hill for the 10th. After walking two of the first three Owl batters in the inning, got the next two batters out to keep it tied heading to the bottom of the tenth.

“I felt like our seniors needed this,” Guerrero said on his performances in the last couple of games to help the Herd to Biloxi. “We hit a couple of bumps on the road, but I think we are coming together. There was no way I was going to let them down and I wanted to get us the win.”

With one out in the tenth, Jaren Lovely pinch hit for Kyle Schaefer, who pinch ran for Inskeep after his double in the eighth. Lovely singled to left in his first at bat of the series. Cabrera fouled out to first on a 2-0 pitch as Luke Edwards stepped to the plate. Edwards came into the at bat 0-for-8 in the series. With a 1-2 count after a pair of foul balls, he hit a ball up the middle. After taking a funky hop and the Rice left fielder bobbling the ball, Lovely scored to win the game.

“Going through some tough times with ups and downs you get frustrated,” Edwards said about going hitless in first eight at bats of the series. “Nobody on this team or on the coaching staff got down on me. They still trusted me and believed in me. When I went up BK (assistant coach Brian Karlet) said ‘stay confident and keep doing you.’ I took two healthy hacks, but they were kind of bad. I stayed simple on the last one and the ride to Biloxi won’t be that bad.”

Edwards, a freshman, will get experience in his first conference tournament during his first season with MU describing the feeling as “indescribable”. “Hearing about last year and the tough times of not having a home field, we made ‘The Deuce’ on Route 2 our home and it helped us out today,” the Myrtle Beach native said.

Wade Martin matched a season-high four innings pitched giving up just two runs on five hits and a walk in his no decision.

Robert Kwiatkowski tossed a perfect two and two-thirds to start his outing before giving up a solo homer. He finished with three and a third innings giving up just three hits and striking out five batters.

After pitching two innings in the previous game, Guerrero tossed two hit-less innings allowing just two walks and striking out three en route to his fourth win of the season and second in as many days to help Marshall with a berth in Biloxi.

“This is what we dream of to do what we did today. The seniors and everyone mean a lot to me. It’s going to be fun down there. We have confidence in ourselves to compete and hopefully win the conference,” Guerrero said on reaching the C-USA tournament in his first season in Huntington.

- Inskeep is 4-for-4 in the series, 3-for-3 on Friday.
- Cabrera’s dinger was his first of the season and second of his career.
- The Herd is 5-2 in extra-inning games this season.
- Marshall has scored six of its nine runs with two outs in the series, including all four in today’s win.
- The Herd is batting .306 with two outs and has 125 two-out RBI.
- Edwards collected the first walk-off hit of his career.
- This was the first time this season the Herd have had back-to-back games go to extra innings.
- MU did not lose a series at home this season.
- Guerrero has thrown four innings in the series, all scoreless while giving up no hits

Marshall will look to get its first C-USA sweep of the season on Senior Day Sunday with first pitch scheduled for 11 am against the Owls.