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Lape Leads Marshall Leap
By Andrew Finley
baseball fans seldom have paid much attention to the Marshall
Thundering Herd, but this season may change all that.
Despite not making the NCAA tournament since 1978
and posting a winning record since 1994 – Marshall won a total
of 11 games in its first two years in Conference USA – things
began to change in Huntington, W.Va., last year. For the first
time in school history, Marshall won 30 games. The Herd also won
10 in the conference then nearly stole the conference tournament
before losing to Houston in the championship game.
The Herd's star player was all-conference
outfielder Nate Lape, who hit .388 with 17 homers, 17 doubles
and 63 RBI. Lape was drafted in the 20th round by Colorado but
chose to return to Marshall for his senior season. He enters
2009 on the Brooks Wallace Award Watch list, a Preseason
All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers
Association and the Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year.
A New York state MVP in high school, Lape began
his career at North Carolina. However, after getting just six
at-bats as a freshman, he decided to transfer. Former North
Carolina State assistant coach Jeff Waggoner recently had taken
the Marshall job, and Lape decided to join him.
Lape had a solid but
unspectacular sophomore year as he battled through injuries,
then exploded as a junior.
think the biggest difference is having confidence, being
healthy, doing more work in the cage,” Lape said.
Added Waggoner: “I think he would have been
playing at North Carolina within a year.”
Waggoner credited Lape's mental approach for the
outfielder's improvement, adding that he has improved all
aspects of his game. Lape stole 20 bases, committed three errors
and drew 31 walks in 2008, all big improvements from his
“He can make adjustments quicker than anybody,”
Lape played for Brewster in
the Cape Cod League over the summer, but was limited by injury.
Although he hit .222 in 54 at-bats, seven of his 12 hits were
for extra bases. Lape feels getting some hits off the top talent
in college baseball has improved his confidence and mental
approach even more.
In addition to Lape, the Herd also features
catcher Victor Gomez, a Freshman All-American last year, and
Adam Yeager, who led the nation with 47 stolen bases in 2008.
Waggoner believes his offense can compete with practically
anybody, and with an improved pitching staff, it may be time for
college baseball fans to learn more about Marshall.
(photos courtesy of Marshall Media Relations