W.Va. natives making an impact on Herd program

“It feels great just to be a part of that and have your family nearby so they can see your games.” -Outfielder Billy Sager

Marshall University’s baseball team has had its ups and downs this season, but it has consistently seen significant contributions from its West Virginia natives.

The Thundering Herd has five players on its roster who hail from the Mountain State—pitcher Caleb Ross, Barboursville, pitcher Michael Taylor, Saint Albans, outfielder Billy Sager, Kenova, outfielder Corey Bird, Pinch, and outfielder Austin Norman, Fairmont.

Taylor, a junior who has the second lowest Earned Run Average on the team this season (1.77), said West Virginia high school baseball players are constantly overlooked by major college recruits.

“I guess most recruits probably think there’s not much talent in this area, with it being a smaller state,” Taylor said. “So to have five players from across the state making an impact on a Division I team that plays in a tough conference, like we do, says something. In my opinion, it’s a statement that there’s some serious talent around here.”

Bird, a sophomore who leads the team in hits and runs scored this season, said the opportunity to represent his home state has been an experience he will always treasure.

“You grow up dreaming about playing big time baseball,” Bird said. “Everyone wants to go to a well-known program where the competition is tough and the expectations are high. To be able to do that in the state you were raised in just makes it that much better.”

While playing close to home was an incentive for each player, Sager, a sophomore, has the opportunity to carry on a family tradition as well.

“My dad and uncle both played for Marshall’s baseball team,” Sager said. “Todd Sager, my uncle, actually got inducted into the Marshall Hall of Fame. It feels great just to be a part of that and have your family nearby so they can see your games.”

Norman, a freshman, said one of the first times he seriously considered coming to Marshall was after an encounter with now-teammate Bird during the 2013 Class AA West Virginia State Championship.

“My team lost to Herbert Hoover, Corey’s team, my junior year in the state championship,” Norman said. “I knew he was coming to Marshall after that year, and it was kind of my goal to work as hard as he did and get to where he’s at. I kind of just sat back and thought to myself: ‘I can do that too. Why not me?’ And now we’re teammates.”

Malcolm Walton can be contacted at [email protected]