HUNTINGTON - Marshall University secured a spot in the Conference USA baseball tournament next week with a 4-3 victory in 10 innings over Rice Friday on George T. Smailes Field at the Huntington YMCA Kennedy Center.
Marshall, 27-25 overall and 13-15 conference, returns to the eight-team C-USA tournament for the first time since 2016. Rice (24-30, 14-15) had already clinched a tournament berth.
The C-USA tournament is May 22-26 at MGM Park in Biloxi, Mississippi.
"It's amazing the way that we hang in there, it shows the toughness of the team," Marshall head coach Jeff Waggoner said in a HerdZone.com release. "Our pitchers did a great job of just keeping us right there. Other than a few pitches, they threw really well. Our offense is good. It struggled a little bit early, but we still had good swings on the ball. They were just outs, but we put it together at the end. It was a fun game to be a part of."
With one out in the 10th inning, Marshall pinch-hitter Jaren Lovely singled to left field. Raul Cabrera fouled out to first base and Luke Edwards stepped to the plate. Edwards came into the at bat 0-for-8 in the series. With a 1-2 count after a pair of foul balls, he hit a ball up the middle. After the ball took a funky hop and was bobbled by Rice left fielder Antonio Cruz, Lovely scored the winning run all the way from first base.
Rice had a 3-0 lead after seven innings with a run-scoring double by Aaron Beaulaurier and solo home runs by Bradley Gnelting and Antonio Cruz.
Marshall pulled even 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Elvis Peralta started the Thundering Herd rally in the eighth by drawing a walk. After two outs Zach Inskeep delivered one run with a double to left-center field. Cabrera followed with a two-run homer to left field.
"I was not thinking about a homer," Cabrera said. "I was just thinking about getting a hit and getting the next guy up."
Marshall starter Wade Martin pitched the first four innings and was charged with two of the Rice runs. Michael Guerrero (4-1), the fourth Marshall pitcher, worked the final two innings for the win. Guerrero allowed no hits or runs, walked two and struck out three.
Owls' reliever Blair Lewis (3-2) pitched the last 2.2 innings, giving up five hits and three runs, and took the loss.
Marshall's 10 hits included Inskeep going 3-for-3 and Cabrera with a 2-for-5 game. Antonio Cruz led Rice with a pair of hits.
The Herd and Owls wrap up the series with Marshall's Senior Day game at 11 a.m. Saturday.