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Marshall, WVU renew rivalry in capitol city

Assistant Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013

Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 23:03

Tuesday, it begins all over again.

With the historic Friends of Coal Bowl coming to an end, a different sport will pick up the rivalry in the absence of football.

Marshall baseball will get its shot at the bitter in-state rivalry Tuesday, March 19 when the Herd travels to Charleston to play at conference home Appalachian Power Park.

The last time the teams met was in a Coastal Carolina tournament in 2008, when WVU beat the Herd 5-3.

But the last time they met in West Virginia? 1998 at Watt Powell Park, which was demolished after the completion of Power Park.

“We are excited to finally get the chance to play against WVU,” senior Matt Kirkwood said, “Its good for the state to finally have us play each other, we’ve been waiting on this opportunity for quite some time.”

The last time Marshall defeated the in-state foe was in 1991.

“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity for awhile, and we’re going to make the best of it,” sophomore pitcher Matt Margaritonda said, “Its a huge game for us and this university.”

Although the Mountaineers lead the series all time 38-21 and have won the last nine consecutive  games against the Herd, WVU went 46 years without a win during the duration of the all-time series.

The Herd is no stranger to Appalachian Power Park. The team began playing home games there during the 2006 campaign. Tuesday’s game is likely to be one of the biggest crowds the team has played in front of at the park.

“I love playing in front of a big crowd,” senior Gray Stafford said of the large crowd possibility, “I know I’ll be anxious before the game, but my nerves will calm down as soon as I cross the white lines.”

“I’m excited to be playing at Power Park because its the field we call home,” Kirkwood said, “In-state rivalries are always big, and I’m glad to be apart of this.”

The team understands the importance of delivering big on the in-state battle.

“I’m all about the Marshall-WVU rivalry,” Stafford said. “I’ve seen it on the football field and the basketball court but I’ve never gotten to compete against those guys.”

“We know how great of a rivalry this is and how important it is to the state,” Margaritonda said, “We’re gonna go out and try to  make Herd nation proud.”

Kirkwood believes a win by the Herd will deliver a big statement.

“This rivalry is so important because we have a lot to prove and this is one way we can get it done- beating WVU,” Kirkwood said.

The Mountaineers are currently 7-9 and begin Big 12 conference play on Friday when they visit Manhattan, Kan. for a three game series against Kansas State.

WVU is coached by first year coach Randy Mazey, who has connections with both Marshall head coach Jeff Waggoner and athletic director Mike Hamrick.

When Hamrick was the AD at East Carolina University, he hired Mazey twice during his tenor. First as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, and then again as head coach.

The connections will be just one more ingredient to the recipe of the rivalry when the teams take to the diamond Tuesday evening.

Marshall is boasting a .500 record, with seven wins and losses. Staff ace Aaron Blair is expected to take the mound for the start. Blair currently has an earned run average of 3.57 with a 2-1 record. The right hander has notched 21 K’s on the year.

While the Coal Bowl flame may be doused, at least for now, baseball will ignite its own in-state fire.

The burning begins at 6:00.

Caitie Smith can be contacted at smith1650@smith1650.com.
 

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