HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Marshall baseball (34-20) advances to its first Conference USA Tournament semifinals since the 2008 season after a 7-6 win over the defending tournament champions FIU Panthers (29-29) on Friday night.
Second-seeded Thundering Herd took control of the game early on by scoring three runs through the first three innings. Aaron Bossi (St. Louis) showed off his senior leadership, as he drove in DJ Gee (Seattle) twice with a single to left field in the first and third inning. Tyler Ratliff (Alexandria, Va.) hit his second homer of the tournament with a solo shot in the second. It was the sophomore’s 12th homer of the season.
Marshall and seventh-seeded FIU traded runs in the fourth inning, as both team plated two. Another senior, Robert Fajardo (Miami), came up big for the Herd as he singled up the middle to score Sam Finfer (Bellevue, Wash.). After Leo Valenti (Olympia, Wash.) was hit by a pitch, Corey Bird (Elkview, W.Va.) singled through the left side to score Fajardo. The Panthers earned its two runs off a double and a single.
The Herd added to its lead in the top of the sixth, when Bossi singled to left field to score Valenti from second.
In the ensuing half inning, FIU’s Austin Rodriguez hit a three-run home run to left center that scored Irving Lopez and Nick Day.
The Panthers clawed their way back to tie the game in the seventh, with a Lopez single to right field that scored Zack Files.
The game-winning run came in the eighth inning for the Herd despite not getting a hit. With one out, Fajardo struck out swinging, but reached first base on a wild pitch. In the next at bat, Fajardo stole second and advanced to third on another wild pitch. After Valenti grounded out to third for the second out, Fajardo scored on the third wild pitch of the inning.
FIU had a chance to tie the game in the bottom half of the eighth, but was unable to as Kolby Follis was out trying to score from second on an infield hit by Files.
A 3-6-1 double play and a Burris Warner (Auburndale, Fla.) strikeout in the bottom of the ninth sealed the win for the Thundering Herd.
On the mound, starting pitcher Joshua Shapiro (Columbus, Ohio) went 5 2/3 innings with five earned runs and six strikeouts. In relief of Shapiro was Wade Martin (Wheelersburg, Ohio), Sam Hunter (Ashland, Ky.) and Warner. Warner (3-1) earned the win after tossing three innings with three strikeouts.
Seven of the nine starters for Marshall recorded a hit. The Herd was led by Bossi, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Bossi leads the C-USA tournament with six RBIs. Bird and Gee each had two hits.
Quotes from Head Coach Jeff Waggoner
On the team’s senior leadership…
“It’s an older group that has been doing it all year. They are never out of a game. They have a lot of confidence that they can come back and win late in a game. It’s been the senior leadership all year with these guys and they believe in themselves.”
On Shapiro’s and Bossi’s performance…
“Well, a freshman gave us a quality outing tonight. Then another senior Aaron Bossi came up with a big hit right there. They just grinded that game out. It was a hard fought battle between two teams. We just found a way to win the game.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s re-match against Southern Miss…
“It’s exciting to get the opportunity to play them again in the semifinal. We know how good they are and we are going to have to do our best.”
Marshall will play Southern Miss at 1:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday. The Herd will need to defeat the Golden Eagles twice on Saturday to advance to the Conference USA Tournament finals.
Southern Miss 9,
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Marshall baseball (33-20) fell in its second game of the Conference USA Tournament on Thursday night against No. 20 Southern Miss (38-18), 9-3.
The second-seeded Thundering Herd jumped out to an early two-run lead after the top of the first inning. Corey Bird (Elkview, W.Va.) led off the game with a bloop single, and then advanced to second after a DJ Gee (Seattle) sacrifice bunt. Aaron Bossi (St. Louis) drove in Bird with a single up the middle. Bossi later came around to score after a sacrifice fly by Tyler Ratliff (Alexandria, Va.).
The lead wouldn’t last long for the Herd, as the third-seeded Southern Miss plated three runs off two hits in the following frame.
After a quiet second inning for both teams, Southern Miss pulled away with five runs in the bottom of the third. The Golden Eagles hit a triple to lead off the inning, which was then followed by a single up the middle to score the runner. Later in the inning with the bases loaded and two outs, Jake Sandlin hit a grand slam to right center field.
Marshall cut into the deficit in the following inning, as Ratliff hit a solo home run to deep center field. It was Ratliff’s 11th home run of the season.
Southern Miss responded in the fifth with a home run by catcher Chuckie Robinson.
The final four innings of the ballgame remained quiet, as neither team scored a run. Marshall recorded two hits over the four frames, while Southern Miss had three.
On the mound, starting pitcher Parker Danciu (Palm Beach, Fla.) earned the loss for the Herd. Danciu (5-4) went two innings and allowed six runs on five hits. JD Hammer (Fort Collins, Colo.) saw time in relief and went 2 2/3 innings with three earned runs on two hits. Sam Hunter (Ashland, Ky.), Heston Van Fleet (Kingsville, Texas) and Caleb Ross (Barboursville, W.Va.) combined for 3 1/3 shutout innings in relief with four strikeouts.
The Herd was led offensively by Bird, who went 3-for-5 with one run. Bird has a team-high 21 multi-hit games this season. Bird had one stolen base to put his season total to 34.