Eight Herd baseball seniors prepare for end of final season
Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 00:05
It’s one of those days athletes wait for their whole careers, and at the same time, dread the day it comes.
For most, it means the end of an era. No longer can you define yourself as wide receiver or a point guard, or in the case of the eight seniors on the Marshall baseball team, a baseball player.
The 2013 graduating class features the last three remaining members from the 2010 Conference USA tournament team, three junior college transfers, and two guys who just found the right fit with the Herd.
Isaac Ballou, Nathan Gomez, and Alfredo Brito are all that is left from the 27-31 2010 squad.
Since joining the kelly green and white, the three have made their leadership present and dominant from the beginning.
Ballou is currently the career record holder for triples at 15 and walks at 123. The centerfielder is 58 for 76 on stolen base attempts.
Gomez led the team last year in batting average, RBI, and doubles.
Brito had a 15 game hitting streak last season and serves as the go-to man in clutch pinch hitting situations.
“I give the same advice every day about the tournament,” Ballou said about the prospects of going back for the first time in three seasons. “Be consistent with your approach and making routine plays. When we do that as a team, we are very difficult to beat. When we don’t the floodgates open and we start treading water.”
The three junior college transfers made an impact almost immediately for the Herd.
Gray Stafford has started in 128 out of the 137 games he’s played for the Herd and led the team last season with five homeruns. Stafford, who spent his entire Marshall career at third base until this season, is the everyday right fielder and came to the Herd from Spartanburg Junior College.
Pitcher Matt Hummel hails from Canada and found an interesting setup upon arriving at Marshall.
“I went from a starter to a reliever,” Hummel said. “That’s a big difference, not knowing when you’re going to go in and not being able to prepare like you normally would.”
The right-hander was a starting pitcher at Daytona State College before shoulder surgery forced him to relocate.
“After surgery, its tough to find a place that wants you anymore. The coaches here, I’m grateful for them giving me the chance to come here. I’ve met some good friends, and I’ve had a lot of fun.”
In 17 appearances for the Herd, Hummel boasts 4.11 ERA.
Southpaw Wayland Moore joined the Herd from Seminole State Junior College.
Moore sat out part of this season with an injury, and returned to the mound during the iconic Houston series.
Moore said his return to the rotation was both a relief and a confidence boost.
“All the problems were gone, and I finally got to go back and do what I love. I love to compete and I love to compete for my team,” Moore said.
The lefty is currently the Friday starter and holds a 3.77 ERA with 30 strikeouts.
Fellow pitcher Terrance Moore came to Marshall three years ago, and like Hummel, had an interesting journey to the Herd.
Moore was a catcher throughout high school and just pitched when it was necessary. He was recruited to University of Maryland Baltimore County as a side-arm relief pitcher.
“The transition was ridiculous,” Moore said. “Going into college as a pitcher, I didn’t even know what I was going to be. I just wanted to play.”
During his freshman campaign Moore had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Unhappy with UMBC, Moore contacted his travel team coach back in New York, and found his place with the Herd.
“I came, took a visit to the school, and ever since then I decided this is where I want to be.”
The last senior of the squad also traveled an interesting route to Huntington.
Catcher Matt Kirkwood was the starter at Cleveland State University and actually played against the Herd two years ago. During the summer, CSU dropped their baseball program, leaving Kirkwood without a home. Coach Waggoner called him, and after a visit, the Pennsylvania senior signed almost immediately.
“Last year was a big year,” Kirkwood said. “I got redshirted because I had surgery [for a broken wrist] so I got to learn all the pitchers and caught a lot of bullpens. I got to learn a lot that way.”
In one year for the Herd, Kirkwood has a .235 average with five doubles, a homer, and a .989 fielding percentage.
As graduation looms for these eight seniors, a new chapter begins for the athletes. Most are looking to play at the next level, others just want to do something with the game after they’ve hung up their cleats.
As for future athletes who may be looking to play college ball, Kirkwood had simple words of advice.
“Just keep working everyday, and never give up. Even when stuff gets hard, just keep working.”
Caitie Smith can be contacted at email@example.com.