Marshall Round-up: Herd Free agents, Softball and Baseball win Sunday


HUNTINGTON — Here is the weekend of all things Marshall Thundering Herd, including former Marshall football players who signed free agent/rookie mini-camp contracts with NFL teams, No. 25-ranked Softball completes 3-game sweep of Middle Tennessee with 2-0 win Sunday, Baseball continues to win at least one game in every C-USA series and Track & Field has record performances at historic Penn Relays, from Woody Woodrum and releases from


Oct 24, 2015; Huntington, WV, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd wide receiver Justin Hunt celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the North Texas Mean Green during the first quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall Thundering Herd wide receiver Justin Hunt celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the North Texas Mean Green during the first quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, back on Oct. 24, 2015. (photo by Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Football Players signing free agent/mini-camp deals with NFL

HUNTINGTON — While Marshall football did not have any players drafted for the second year in a row, the Thundering Herd program saw seven former players in all sign free agent contracts with five different teams in the National Football League. Six of the players played last season for the Thundering Herd, while one other was at Marshall as a starter in the 2015 season before transferring for his senior season to an FCS program.

Tight end Emanuel Byrd was contacted by both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs about coming in for that team’s rookie mini-camps this coming weekend, but eventually chose the Chiefs, where he will be joined by Herd teammate and receiver Justin Hunt.

The Chiefs are also bringing in Nebraska receiver Alonzo Moore, West Florida receiver Anas Hasic, Auburn receiver Tony Stevens, Alabama receiver Gehrig Dieter and Hawai’i receiver Marcus Kemp. Kansas City also signed Utah State tight end Wyatt Houston.

Byrd caught 45 passes over two seasons, for 456 yards (10.1 yards per catch) and scored four touchdowns. Hunt had 52 catches in his Marshall career, with 23 of those coming during his senior season.

Hunt gathered 786 yards (15.1 yards per catch), 10 touchdowns (5 last year) with a long of 44, also his senior season. He started all 12 games as a senior, the only year as a starter.

Herd receiver Michael Clark, a Division I basketball transfer who played only one season of football, signed with the Green Bay Packers. Joining him there will be fellow Marshall teammate and receiver Deon-Tay McManus. The Packers drafted two receivers, Purdue’s DeAngelo Yancey (fifth) and LSU’s Malachi Dupre (seventh).

Clark had 37 catches from his former high school teammate, Herd QB Chase Litton. He gained 632 yards (17.1 yards per catch), five touchdowns and 52.7 yards per game. He started all 12 games in 2016.

McManus played three seasons for the Herd, catching 101 balls for 1,209 yards (12.0 yards per catch for his career). He scored 10 total touchdowns, with his best year being six scores in 2014. His 40 catches and 453 yards in 2016 were both career bests, with three touchdowns, and started 13 games as MU, six of those coming in 2016.

Marshall defensive end Gary Thompson signed with the defending NFC champs, the Atlanta Falcons, who collapsed in the second half of this past season’s Super Bowl, allowing the New England Patriots to come back and win. The Falcons also drafted OLB/DE Takkarist McKinley of UCLA with the No. 26 overall pick.

Thompson was an outstanding player for the Herd, with 150 career tackles, 29.0 tackles for loss (-156 yards), 19.0 quarterback sacks (-127 yards), nine of those during his 2015 junior season. He started 24 games in his Marshall career, half of his career 48 games played.

Thompson racked up a touchdown as a freshman in 2013, also grabbing both of his career interceptions including the five-yard touchdown he scored. He had 36 quarterback pressures, forced seven fumbles and recovered five of those.

The last announced signee on Sunday was Herd offensive tackle Clint Van Horn, who missed the final three games of 2016 and most of the 2015 seasons with injuries. He will be headed to the New Orleans Saints — who unfortunately did not renew its preseason contract at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., about 30 minutes from Van Horn’s home in Beckley. The Houston Texans will be at The Greenbrier in August.

Van Horn appeared in 51 games at Marshall, nine in 2016 (starting eight at right tackle and the ninth at right guard) and three in 2015, after playing 11 in 2012 and 14 in both 2013 and 2014. He started 34 of those 51 games.

The Saints drafted offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who played first at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, who the transferred from the D-III school to FBS Football. He was a standout for the Wisconsin Badgers of the Big Ten as a senior in 2016.

Finally, Michael Birdsong started two games at Marshall in 2015 after he transferred from James Madison — where he played 2012-13 for former Herd defensive coordinator and JMU head coach Mickey Matthews. Birdsong defeated Purdue, then was injured in the loss to Ohio University. He returned late in that season to backup current Herd starter Chase Litton, including some big plays in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl win over UConn of the American, but then transferred to Tennessee Tech for the 2016 season.

He signed with the Seattle Seahawks, who also signed former WVU quarterback Skylar Howard as a free agent.

Marshall’s Free Agents signed as of May 1:

Name-Position-NFL Team-Status

  • Michael Birdsong – QB – Seattle Seahawks – rookie mini-camp [played at Marshall in 2015; also played at James Madison (2012-13) and Tennessee Tech(2016)]
  • Emanuel Byrd – TE – Kansas City Chiefs – rookie mini-camp
  • Michael Clark – WR – Green Bay Packers – rookie mini-camp
  • Justin Hunt – WR – Kansas City Chiefs – rookie mini-camp
  • Deon-Tay McManus – WR – Green Bay Packers – rookie mini-camp
  • Gary Thompson – DE – Atlanta Falcons – UFA
  • Clint Van Horn – OT – New Orleans Saints – UFA

Conference USA Drafted Players:

Round – Overall – Player – Position – C-USA School – NFL Team

  • Second – 38 – Forrest Lamp – OL – WKU – Los Angeles Chargers
  • Third – 65 – Larry Ogunjobi – DT – Charlotte – Cleveland Browns
  • Third – 72 – Taywan Taylor – WR – WKU – Tennessee Titans
  • Third – 82 – Carlos Henderson – WR – Louisiana Tech – Denver Broncos
  • Third – 100 – Jonnu Smith – TE – FIU – Tennessee Titans
  • Third – 103 – Trey Hendrickson – DE – Florida Atlantic – New Orleans Saints
  • Fifth – 177 – Trent Taylor – WR – Louisiana Tech – San Francisco 49ers
  • Fifth – 182 – Aaron Jones – RB – UTEP – Green Bay Packers
  • Sixth – 191 – Xavier Woods – S – Louisiana Tech – Dallas Cowboys


MUSB 2017 Morgan Zerkle

Morgan Zerkle hits a homer in Herd sweep of Middle Tennessee with 2-0 win on Sunday. (HI file photo)

No. 25 Softball Sweeps Middle Tennessee

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The 25th ranked Marshall softball team completed its three-game sweep over Middle Tennessee, 2-0, Sunday afternoon. The Thundering Herd improves to 38-7 and 18-3 in Conference USA action. The Blue Raiders fall to 18-26 and 5-14 in conference play. Marshall has swept Middle Tennessee every season since 2014 when the Blue Raiders first joined Conference USA and has lost only once in 14 meeting against MTSU. It was also the fifth Conference USA series sweep of the season for the Herd.

The Herd’s 18-3 record leads FIU (14-6) in the East, who have clinched a spot in the C-USA Championships in Hattiesburg, Miss. on May 10-13, as have Florida Atlantic (13-8) and WKU (10-13). Next in the East is Charlotte (8-12) and Middle (5-14). Middle has two series left to play, with two versus UAB (a doubleheader on May 3 at 3 p.m.) and three at Charlotte (May 5-6) — with two wins by Charlotte over Middle would propel the 49ers past the Golden Eagles of USM and into the C-USA Championships.

In the West, Louisiana Tech is 16-5 and has clinched a spot in the C-USA Championships, followed by UAB (10-9, clinched), North Texas (11-13, clinched), Southern Miss (9-14), UTSA (9-15) and UTEP (5-16). There are eight teams for the C-USA Championships and current No. 8 Southern Miss will need to finish in front of UTSA and Charlotte — who USM swept over the weekend — but Southern Miss has no C-USA games left this regular season, as they play games with Southeastern Louisiana and Ole Miss this week in their league open week.

Marshall senior pitcher Jordan Dixon went the distance for win No. 28 of the year, and recorded her 23rd shutout of her career. Dixon moved into second place all-time in shutouts, passing Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame member Sara Gulla. Dixon allowed just two hits, one coming in the seventh, and struck out six.

“Our staff is really proud of this team. Pitching and defense will win you championships and we were really strong all weekend,” Marshall Coach Shonda Stanton said. “Dixon came out strong and gave up just one hit going into the seventh. Zerkle came up clutch with the long ball. She hit one of the furthest balls I have ever seen outside maybe the one she hit last summer with USA Elite.

“That was nice (of Zerkle) to give us the 1-0 lead and then we got an insurance run that we really needed. Our offense never really came up with the clutch hit. But sometimes that happens, the bats will go to a little bit to sleep. But, our pitching and defense were tremendous today.

“In the outfield, we really covered some ground. Estrada did a nice job in left and (Tribolet) in center field back at the wall. Our infield did a great job; Elicia set the tone early with the double play on two of their fastest kids. Defense and pitching really won it for us this weekend and I’m really proud of this group and where we are.” The Herd received great defensive play with a double play in the first inning and a few crucial catches in the outfield.

The two teams battled through the first three innings scoreless. Senior Morgan Zerkle broke the game open with a solo home run to right to lead off the fourth. It was her sixth homer of the season and 10th of her career.

The Herd scored one more insurance run in the sixth. Sophomore Hayden Ellis led off the inning with a pinch-hit, single to center that hit right off the top of the fence and came back in the field of play. Junior Eloise Tribolet re-entered to run at first. The Herd eventually loaded the bases and senior Shaelynn Braxton drove in Tribolet with a single to take the 2-0 lead.

The Blue Raiders put two on base in the seventh, but Dixon struck out the final batter to end the game and preserve the win.

Dixon has 248 strikeouts this year and has pitched 24 complete games, as the senior ace lowered her season ERA to a career-best 1.65 with batters hitting a lowly .188 against her. She has over 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts, the first Marshall player to hit both of those career marks.

Marshall returns to Dot Hicks Field for the final series of the regular season. The UAB Blazers, the second place team in the West at 19-20 overall, 10-9 in C-USA, come to Huntington for the Herd’s senior weekend, May 5-6. A single-game will be played Friday, May 5, at 2 p.m. The teams will play the doubleheader on Saturday, May 6, beginning at 1 p.m.

Saturday will be the final home game for Marshall seniors including pitcher Jamie Dixon (28-5 this season), utility player Chloe Parsemain (who has appeared in seven games and swam for the Herd Swimming and Diving team in 2013-17), utility player Morgan Zerkle (leads Herd with .474 batting average, 11 doubles, and five triples), and infielder Shaelynn Braxton (10 doubles, eight homers, and 31 RBI).


MUBB 2017 Matt Reed

Matt Reed, who leads the Herd with four saves, picked up his fifth win of the year in a 2-1 victory over ODU. (HI file photo)

Baseball continues C-USA series streak with 2-1 win at ODU

NORFOLK, Va. — Catcher Reynaldo Pastrana’s late home run and strong pitching by Will Ray and Matt Reed carried the Marshall baseball team to a 2-1 win over the Old Dominion Monarchs on Sunday at the Bud Metheny Complex. The Thundering Herd won 1-of-3 games at the Monarchs — No. 25 of the USCBWA poll — and have won at least one game in every C-USA series played this season.

The Herd has three series and nine C-USA games (weather permitting) left this season, and is currently tied for the eighth and final spot in the C-USA Tournament with Rice — both teams are 9-12, and will not play head-to-head this season. Rice has series at Charlotte (14-7, tied for third with ODU), then home to Middle Tennessee (7-14, tied for tenth with UAB) and go to UAB (7-14, tied for third with MTSU).

The Herd will still host WKU (4-17 in C-USA, 12th place) May 5-7, heads to fifth place Louisiana Tech (11-10 in C-USA) on May 12-14, then hosts Charlotte (14-7 in C-USA) May 18-20. The Thundering Herd improved to 21-23 overall, 9-12 Conference USA, with the victory.  The Monarchs fall to 31-12 (14-7 C-USA) as relief pitcher Isaiah Nelson (1-1) took his first loss of the season by throwing two innings and allowing one run on one hit, Pastrana’s homer.

Relief pitcher Matt Reed (5-4) earned his team-leading fifth win, added to his team-leading four saves this season. The Purcellville, Va., native went four innings and allowed three hits and one run (unearned). Starting pitcher (and Herd regular second baseman) Will Ray picked up the no-decision but was dominant on the mound for the Herd. The right-handed pitcher went five innings and didn’t allow a run on four hits, with two strikeouts and one walk.

“I’m so proud of these guys. The way the first two games went, we didn’t play really good baseball, but they came out and beat a really good team on Sunday,” Herd Coach Jeff Waggoner said. “It kept us alive in the hunt to get into the [C-USA] tournament.

“Will did a great job and just pounded the zone. He mixed with his changeup and his curveball, and he really spotted his fastball. And Matt Reed just did a great job by coming in for four innings and doing the job.”

Waggoner was also happy to see Pastrana have a big day, scoring both Herd runs and going 1-for-3 at the plate with the home run and RBI. “Huge hit,” Waggoner said of the ninth inning round-tripper. “I couldn’t be more proud of Rey. It was a situation where we needed a big hit. He caught all three games and to come in and get a big hit right there was huge.”

After seeing ODU scored 30 runs combined in the first two losses of the series (14-5 Friday and 16-1 in 7 innings Saturday), Marshall broke the scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning. Pastrana, the Herd’s sophomore backstop, worked a one-out walk to get things started for the Herd, then advanced to second a wild pitch by the Old Dominion starting pitcher John Wilson. Senior pinch-hitter Tommy Lane put runners on first and second after being walked with two outs. Shortstop Leo Valenti scratched out a single on a ball hit off the pitcher’s leg for an infield hit that loaded the bases and then right fielder Cory Garrastazu drove in Pastrana by being walked on five pitches, one of five Herd walks in the game.

Old Dominion tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs. Will Morgan hit a deep triple off the wall in right center. The Monarchs brought in pinch-hitter Shaun Wood and he reached on an error by Lane at first base that allowed Morgan to score.

Back came the Herd in the top of the ninth when Pastrana broke the tie with a solo home run to left field. It was the sophomore’s fifth homer and 19th RBI of the season, scoring both Thundering Herd runs in the game and having one of just four hits against ODU.

Sophomores left fielder Andrew Zban, center fielder Shane Hanon, and Pastrana, along with senior Valenti, each had one hit in the win. Zban was 1-for-4 with a double, his fourth of the year, and has raised his average to .274 this season. Pastrana was 1-for-3 with a RBI and two runs scored and is hitting .237 while sharing catching duties with senior Sam Finfer, who played second with Ray pitching.

With finals at Marshall University this week, the Herd will not have a mid-week game. Marshall baseball will be back home for a three-game C-USA series this weekend when the Herd welcomes the WKU Hilltoppers to Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va. Game one is set for 2 p.m. on Friday, game two at 1 p.m. on Saturday and game three at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Each of those games can be heard on the IMG/Thundering Herd Sports Network on ESPN Huntington 94.1 FM and AM 930 (as well as on the Tune-In app and at, with the Voice of the Herd Steve Cotton and Woody Woodrum on the calls of the games.

The West Virginia Power will also be home for three with the Lexington (Ky.) Legends including Friday’s “Cinco de Mayo” food and drink specials at the game and “Fireworks Friday” starting at 7:05 p.m. on May 5. Then there is a Baywatch Night on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. (free beach towel to first 1,000 fans). Finally, it will be a “Kids Fun Day Sunday” on May 7 at 2:05 p.m., with a pregame catch in the outfield with Power players and running the bases after the game with the Class A South Atlantic League team of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In addition, the West Virginia Power will also be home for three with the Lexington (Ky.) Legends this weekend. That includes Friday’s Cinco de Mayo game and fireworks at 7:05 p.m. May 5, a Baywatch Night on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. (free beach towel to first 1,000 fans) and at Kids Fun Day Sunday on May 7 at 2:05 p.m., with pregame catch in outfield with Power players and running the bases after the game with the Class A South Atlantic League team of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


MUTRK 2017 Herd set MU relay records at Penn Relays

Marshall set records in the distance medley relay and the shuttle hurdle relay at the historic Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field in Philadephia, Penn. (photo courtesy of

Track sets two MU records at Penn Relays

PHILADELPHIA — The Marshall University track and field team broke two school records at the historic three-day Penn Relays. The meet was the 123rd annual Penn Relays at Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania. School records were broken in two different events; the distance medley relay and the shuttle hurdle relay.

On Thursday the distance medley relay team consisting of junior Barkley Castro, junior Andrea Chidester, freshman Mary Zulauf, and senior Andrea Porter broke the school record with a time of 12:08.82. The team broke the previous record set earlier in April at the Florida Relays of 12:15.71.

Friday evening the shuttle hurdle relay team of freshman Hannah Carreon, sophomore Sarah Bever, senior Danielle Wright, and freshman Safiyyah Mitchell ran a time of 57.30. This edged out the previous record of 57.96 set earlier this season at the Florida Relays.


The 4×800 meter relay team of juniors Barkley Castro and Madeline Armstrong, freshman Mary Zulauf, and senior Andrea Porter finished 12th with a time of 9:21.24.


Out of over 30 athletes in the triple jump college division, two Herd athletes placed in the top-10. Senior Antonique Butler placed fifth with a jump of 40 feet, 4 inches (12.29 meters). Freshman Denisha West finished ninth with a jump of 38 feet, 9.75 inches (11.83 meters).

In the javelin throw college division, sophomore Heidi Heiniger finished 22nd with a throw of 118 feet, 5 inches (36.11 meters).


The 4×100 meter relay team finished 24th out of 78 schools with a time of 46.75. The team consisted of freshmen Hannah Carreon and Safiyyah Mitchell, sophomore Kayla Haywood, and junior Andrea Chidester.

The 4×400 meter relay team finished 29th out of 71 schools with a time of 3:49.61. The team consisted of three freshmen; Christianna Dogan, Safiyyah Mitchell, Danere’a White and junior Brianna Hargrove.

Graduate senior Alexis Montes finished fifth in the javelin throw championship with a throw of 149 feet, 2 inches (45.47 meters).

In the high jump college division, sophomore Sarah Bever finished 15th with a jump of 5 feet, 5.75 inches (1.67 meters). Sophomore Torie Derrow finished 23rd with a jump of 5 feet, 4.25 inches (1.63 meters).

Sophomore Hasana Clark finished 17th in the hammer throw college division with a toss of 168 feet, 11 inches (51.49 meters).

Clark and freshman Ericka Budd finished back-to-back in the shot put college division in 44th and 45th, respectively. Clark threw a mark of 40 feet, 2.25 inches (12.25 meters) and Budd threw a best 39 feet, 11.5 inches (12.18 meters).

The Penn Relays conclude the regular season for the Herd. After a week off for Marshall University finals, the team will travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the Conference USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships hosted by UTSA. The meet begins Thursday, May 11.

About Woody Woodrum

Senior Editor and columnist/writer for Herd Insider since 2003, with Kindred Communications on radio for Marshall football/men's basketball pregame and postgame shows since 1996 and with First Sentry Bank Sportsline (Also Scott on Sports, Sideline Sports and Herd Insider Sportsline) since 1997. Married to Liz (12-22-1990) and one son, Tre' (11-7-1997). National Sportswriters & Sportscasters West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year winner for radio, 2000; won W.Va. Broadcasters Best Talk Show in 2013 with co-host Paul Swann and W.Va. Broadcasters Best Play-by-Play in 2015 with Jason Toy (Huntington at South Charleston, state AAA semifinals). Member of (College) Football Writers Association of America, (College) Basketball Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Color commentator for Marshall football (1999-2000), for Marshall basketball (2004-2016) and Marshall baseball (2004-2016). Color for high school football at Spring Valley (1999-2008), Cabell Midland (2009-2012) and Huntington (W.Va.) High School (2013-2016).

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