Herd baseball opens 2018 with road trip, three-game series


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Thundering Herd baseball commences the 2018 regular season this Friday in Tallahassee, Florida, as longtime Head Baseball Coach Jeff Waggoner leads his team to Florida A&M University for a three-game series with the Rattlers at Moore-Kittles Field.

Marshall comes off of a 25-28 overall win-loss record (12-17 C-USA) in 2017. This season, the Herd starts its 2018 schedule with an 11-game road trip. With four concurrent series at Florida A&M, Elon, Appalachian State and Western Carolina, the Herd won’t play a home game until March 9.

Waggoner said, going into the season, his squad shows strengths on the mound and in the field.

“That’s why we play the first weekend,” Waggoner said. “We’ll find out what we need to do. Our strengths are depth on the mound, and I like our team’s speed.”

Junior right-handed pitcher Wade Martin is Friday’s projected starting pitcher. Martin made 14 starts last season, had a win-loss record of 3-4 with a 4.24 ERA and struck out a team-high 77 batters (11th-most in Conference USA). Martin also ranked amongst the top-ten C-USA pitchers in four separate categories: batters struck out looking (first, 21), innings pitched (first, 68.1), strikeouts (fifth, 56) and opposing batting average (seventh, .237).

“Martin, who was Second Team All-Conference, has had big innings since he’s been here as a freshman.” Waggoner said. “Guys like Will Ray, who’s a senior, and Matt Reed—those guys are important for us to have success.”

Last season, Martin was named to the All-Conference USA Second Team and C-USA All-Academic Team, the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll and received the C-USA Academic Medal.

In addition to Martin, Marshall’s pitching staff includes five supplementary upperclassmen and returns six of its seven starting pitchers from 2017. Senior right-handers Brad O’Connor and Will Ray, junior left-handers Partrick Murphy and Joshua Shapiro and redshirt senior right-hander Matt Reed are amongst the eldest Herd pitchers.

Last season, Ray started 35 games at second base and six games on the mound. This season, Ray will transition to starting pitcher primarily, while occasionally playing first base.

“I hit leadoff a lot and played second (last season),” Ray said. “Going into the season, I’m primarily focusing on pitching.”

At the plate last season, Ray’s 45 starts (50 total appearances) produced a .240 batting average with a .378 on-base percentage and a .338 slugging percentage. He also had nine stolen bases, tied for the team-high.

“I didn’t work on (pitching) a whole lot in the fall, and this year I put my focus on that,” Ray said. “We have (pitching) coach Renner, who’s been great and really worked with our whole pitching staff and I think we’ve come a long way.”

Last season, Reed made 24 relief appearances, recording a 6-5 win-loss ratio with five saves (tied for seventh in the conference).

“(I feel) a lot better than I did last year,” Reed said. “I prepared a lot more over the summer, came into it with a better attitude. Coming into my second year, I feel a lot more confident and I feel like we can get a lot done and a lot accomplished as a team this year.”

Despite the departure of staple starters Tommy Lane, Tyler Ratliff and Sam Finfer, Marshall’s roster a has plethora of talent, including 11 newcomers.

Redshirt junior outfielder Shane Hanon, junior catcher Rey Pastrana and junior outfielder Andrew Zban add more experience to the Herd’s roster. Last season, Hanon started 49 games at center field, while Zban started 39 games in the outfield and Pastrana started 43 games behind the plate. Hanon achieved team-high .342 batting average (10th C-USA) with a .426 slugging percentage and a 392 on-base percentage. Zban had a batting average of .254, as he hit safely 36 times, scored 27 runs and had 30 RBI’s. Pastrana hit .221 with 36 hits, 18 runs-scored and 23 RBI’s.

“We’ve got some upperclassmen that have been part of some good years here,” Waggoner said. “Their leadership is going to help us win a lot.”

11 new athletes join the Herd this season. Freshman infielder Cameron Collett attained a .421 batting average at Guilderland High School in Guilderland, NY. Junior infielder Steven Nice joins the Herd after transferring from Chabot College in Hayward, California, where he had a .298  batting average.

“We have some guys that are coming in,” Assistant Coach Victor Gomez said. “Some young guys and a couple of transfers, as well, and they’re ready to make an impact.”

Rick Farlow can be contacted at [email protected]