Olympic Sports

Herd beats WKU behind Dixon No-Hitter, 2-0

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HUNTINGTON – When a team has the Coach of the Year Shonda Stanton, in her 18th year running Marshall, the Player of the Year in Morgan Zerkle, and the Pitcher of the Year, Jordan Dixon, as well as a No. 23 rankings, a No. 1 seed and 40 wins on the season, no one should be surprised when that team – Marshall – comes out and wins its opening game of the 2017 Conference USA Softball Championships. When the team they are playing is arch-rival and No. 8-seeded WKU, there is a little more on the line and, unfortunately, that Hilltoppers team had to play 21 innings and nearly eight hours of softball in two games Wednesday just to get to Thursday’s double-elimination round.

Dixon went seven innings, allowed no hits, no runs, one second-inning walk and struck out eight for her third career shutout in the 2-0 by the Thundering Herd in the team’s first game in the C-USA Tournament. Dixon no-hit Morehead State earlier this season, 8-0 in five innings, and had her first no-no against Ohio U. in 2016, also 8-0 but in six innings. She threw just the second no-hitter in the history of the C-USA postseason tourney (since 2000). WKU pitcher Miranda Kramer no-hit Charlotte back on May 7, 2015, on the way to winning the tournament. Marshall is looking for its second C-USA Championship win having done just that back in 2013 and moves on to meet FIU in Friday’s game.

MUSB 2017 C-USA game 1 vs. WKU, MU-2 WKU-0, Dixon no-no

Jordan Dixon allowed no runs, no hits, one walk, one hit batter and had eight strikeouts in the no-hitter for the 2-0 win for Marshall against WKU (the Herd now leads the series, 8-5). It is only the second no-hitter in C-USA Tournament history. (courtesy C-USA/Marshall)

Dixon was very happy with the no-hitter but more excited about the win. “It feels great, it is an awesome feeling,” Dixon said to beIN Sports. “I just can’t describe how good it is to win, and to have my family, my mother here.” Dixon’s mother is battling cancer but made the trip to Mississippi. Dixon was a little less impressed with herself on making the catch for the final out of the game, what the beIN Sports reporter called a great catch. “I wouldn’t call it a good catch, but I did hold onto the ball, and that’s the important thing. It’s a good win for us.”

In the first no-hitter in C-USA tournament history, WKU pitcher Miranda Kramer no-hit Charlotte back on May 7, 2015, on the way to winning the tournament. Marshall is looking for its second C-USA Championship win having done just that back in 2013 and moves on to meet FIU in Friday’s game.  FIU, now 44-12, beat Louisiana Tech, 7-1, in the second game of Thursday’s action. They had the second-best record to Marshall in league play at 17-6. They had seven runs on nine hits and held LA Tech (now 33-22 overall) to just one run on five hits. FIU was the only team to win a series from the Herd, losing game one in Miami, Fla. to MU by 2-1 behind Dixon’s pitching (1 run on six hits) in game one on April 14, but FIU won the nightcap, 8-4, with Kailee Williamson taking the Herd’s loss. On April 15, the Golden Panthers beat the Herd 3-1 with Dixon taking the loss in six innings, allowing three runs on three hits, six walks, and four strikeouts.

FIU was the only team to win a series from the Herd, losing game one in Miami, Fla. to MU by 2-1 behind Dixon’s pitching (1 run on six hits) in game one on April 14, but FIU won the nightcap, 8-4, with Kailee Williamson taking the Herd’s loss. On April 15, the Golden Panthers beat the Herd 3-1 with Dixon taking the loss in six innings, allowing three runs on three hits, six walks, and four strikeouts.

FIU freshman Shannon Saile, the Frosh of the Year, lost game one with two runs on four hits in 7.0 innings, three walks and seven strikeouts, but won game three by holding the Herd to one unearned run on two hits, four walks, and five strikeouts. Marshall and FIU play in the first game of the semi-final round, Friday at 1 p.m. (EDT). Fans can tune into the game through beIN Sports on youtube.com as well as 88.1 WMUL-FM, online at www.marshall.edu/wmul.

MUSB 2017 C-USA game 1 vs. WKU, MU-2 WKU-0, Jordan Dixon hugs catcher Taylor McCord after no-hitter

Jordan Dixon hugs catcher Taylor McCord as Coach Shonda Stanton (left, sunglasses) and other members of the Thundering Herd head out to congratulate Dixon on the no-hitter, the third of her career. (courtesy C-USA/Marshall)

The C-USA Player of the Year Morgan Zerkle showed by she was picked for this honor and all the rest she has collected this year. She was 1-for-1 with a home run and the Herd’s only run batted in. She also walked twice and scored the Herd’s other run when WKU’s right fielder Paige Carter dropped an easy fly ball off the bat of Marshall catcher Taylor McCord, the only error by either team. WKU’s pitching duo of Kathryn Downing (16-13) and reliever Kelsey Aikey threw well, limiting the dangerous Herd offense to just two runs on six hits, and each tossed three innings.

Shonda Stanton, the 18-year coach of the Herd, is still just reminding her team to take it one game at a time like they have all season. “We will put one foot in front of the other, watch this next game and see who we played tomorrow,” Stanton said. “If you have a pitcher like Jordan Dixon, you are never surprised when she does something special. She has been a real workhorse for us this season and she wants the game ball, and you have to have a strong team behind you – you know how hard it is to throw a no-hitter. Collie (Jordan Colliflower) makes an amazing play there in the seventh.”

Colliflower’s catch was both amazing and important. She had gone in for defensive purposes, replacing Hayden Ellis in right field as the ‘Toppers came to bat in the seventh.With one out in the books, designated player Jordan Mauch came to the plate. Mauch led WKU with 12 home runs, had 10 doubles and 29 RBI this season, walking 29 times and striking out only 15. She worked a 2-2 count with two foul offs of Dixon, then fouled three more before stinging a ball down the right field line. It looked like a sure double until Colliflower dove at the last second got the glove under the ball and took away a double or better with as good of a catch as you will see at any level of softball or baseball.

WKU had rallied in both of Wednesday’s games, first when WKU upset No. 5 UAB in game one, 12-7, in 12 innings, a game that began the tournament yesterday at 1 p.m. (EDT). Then last night, the ‘Toppers continued the upset trend by knocking off No. 4 Florida Atlantic, 6-5, in nine innings in WKU’s second extra-innings win. It was 21 innings and 7.5 hours of softball for WKU on day one just to play the Herd. Tomorrow, they meet LA Tech, the No. 3 seed, at 3:30 p.m. EDT to try and stay alive for the loser of Marshall-FIU for later on Friday night at 7 p.m.

The Hilltoppers, instead of having a runner on second or third with one out and another comeback seemingly waiting to be grasped, now had two outs in the ninth. Dixon induced Kara Brewer to hit a one-hopper back up the box, and the Herd pitcher threw to Elizabeth DeShields for the final out of the 2-0 win.

MUSB 2017 Sr. Day Morgan Zerkle family and friends

Morgan Zerkle (third from right, No. 18) is joined by family and friends on Senior Day last weekend at Marshall. Zerkle hit a home run, scored both of the Herd’s two runs, walked twice and had a RBI to lead Marshall to a 2-0 win over WKU. (courtesy Marshall)

In the fifth inning, Marshall got another good defensive play with two outs. WKU center fielder Kelsey McGuffin hit a line drive towards the centerfield wall and it appeared to have enough on it to leave the park. Herd center fielder TRIBOLET, Eloise Tribolet was playing a couple of steps deeper than normal, broke back on the ball as it was hit and extended her arm as high as she could above her 5-foot-9 head and made the catch that might have scored a run in the fifth, or at least put another runner on second.

“She made a great catch there, playing a couple of steps deeper and breaking on the ball,” Stanton said. “Both catches were big on a day where we were not very good on offense. And then you have the player of the year, Morgan Zerkle, she goes yard. That sets the tone and lets you breathe a little bit more. Then they gave us one. Offensively we weren’t at our strength, that’s our base running, and we made a few mistakes there. For me it’s about sitting on that bucket over there, staying out of their way and letting them do it.

“I have a lot of respect for Amy. She’s a competitor. That’s a great indication of the team taking on her personality. They played outstanding yesterday and that’s a dangerous team. You’ve got somebody who’s a low seed that knocked off two higher seeds playing free and having fun. They’ve done a quality job.”

Stanton wanted the team to set the tone right from the get-go against a team who played so much on day one. “You want to get out and play,” Stanton said. “We left (Huntington) at 3:45  on Tuesday morning … and you’re sitting around waiting and watching (on day one Wednesday). Everyone wants to get out and play. We got that first one out of the way. We weren’t as sharp offensively, as far as quality at-bats, but’s that okay. Great teams find ways to win. That’s what this ball club did. I want us to have a faster start tomorrow though.”

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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