Olympic Sports

Herd Softball shuts out UAB 3-0 in weekend opener

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HUNTINGTON — Marshall seniors on the Herd softball team have a chance to set a conference win record and tie the overall wins mark if they play on Saturday like they did on Friday afternoon. Two of the Herd’s five seniors were instrumental in shutting out the Blazers of UAB at Dot Hicks Field.

The No. 23-ranked Marshall softball team won its sixth game in-a-row on Friday afternoon by defeating the UAB Blazers 3-0. The Herd moves to 39-7 and 19-3 in Conference USA. The Blazers fall to 20-31 and 11-11 in Conference USA.

Junior Elicia D’Orazio set the Marshall single-season mark for stolen bases at 52 after stealing four in the game. D’Orazio moved ahead of former teammate Kaelynn Greene (2013-16) who recorded 51 as a senior in 2016. The four thefts also tied D’Orazio’s career-best.

MUSB 2017 Jordan Dixon (left) and Elicia D'Orazio

Senior Jordan Dixon (left) pitched a gem with a 3-0 shutout for her 100th complete game (2nd all-time) while Elicia D’Orazio stole four bases during a 3-for-3 day and set a season record for steals with 52 this year as the Herd knocked off UAB. Game 2/3 start at 1 p.m. after Dixon, and her four other senior teammates, are honored. (HI file photo)

The record for wins in a season is 41, set by the 2003 MAC champions team. That team and one other won 20 games in league play. With a sweep of Saturday’s game, after Senior Day events, would give the current team a record of 41-7 (vs. the earlier team winning 41 but losing 17) and with one win they will tie those 20-4 team, and pass them with two wins, and 22-3 would be the best conference record in Herd history, including being a member of the Southern Conference (1994-97), the Mid-American Conference (1998-2005) and C-USA (since 2006).

“It was a quick game,” Marshall coach Shonda Stanton said. ‘Dixon was just cruising along and going into the fifth when UAB got their first hit. Nine strikeouts, she was in total control and it was nice to see. It is exciting to see how well she is pitching and how strong she is at the end of the season.”

Senior Jordan Dixon picked up her 29th win of the season by pitching a complete game, 9-strikeout, 1-hit gem in Friday’s victory. She faced only two batters over the minimum. It was the 100th complete game of her career, second all-time behind Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame member Cristy Waring’s 104 (1995-98).

Senior Morgan Zerkle quickly gave the Herd a lead when, in the bottom of the first, she crushed a home run to dead center field to put the Herd up 1-0. It was her seventh home run of the season. The Herd bats would stay relatively quiet until the fourth inning.

MUSB 2015 Morgan Zerkle

Senior Morgan Zerkle gave the Herd all the runs they would need to win when she led the game off with a home run to deep center field in the 3-0 shutout of UAB. (HI file photo)

“We didn’t hit the ball particularly well, so it was good to see Zerkle set the tone early with the no-doubter to center,” Stanton said. “But, our identity is our base running. It is something that we have done well over the years, Elicia wanted that record, and she went after it and just passed KG (Kaelynn Greene) — another phenomenal base stealer.

“We have had a history of Herd ball-players who are great on the base paths so getting four stolen bases in the game was pretty exciting. She was 3-for-3 at the plate. It was great to see how in control she was.”

D’Orazio led off with a bunt single. She then stole her 50th base of the season by taking second, and then her 51st by taking third. On the throw to third base, the Blazers third basemen committed an error, allowing D’Orazio to come home and give Marshall a 2-0 lead.

With one out, senior Shaelynn Braxton doubled. Braxton took off for third as the catcher attempted a throw down to second. The throw went into center allowing Braxton to score. Marshall extended the lead to 3-0 and held on through the final three innings as only two Blazers reached base.

In the bottom of the sixth, after a leadoff single to left, D’Orazio took second for her fourth of the game and 52nd base of the season.

“And then Shae on the throw behind her,” Stanton said. “She was able to take third and scores on that so we really produced and made runs happen because of our aggressiveness and stole two runs because of that.

“We lucked out today with the weather so I hope it cooperates tomorrow as well. It is a big day for our seniors. You know, this group has done an incredible job leading this team and they are phenomenal players. This group is going to be hard to see go and so I really hope the Huntington community comes out and sends them off right.

“Support this group and this team. We are undefeated at home. We are doing big things. We are in the Top 25. Our RPI is strong. We are setting all kinds of records and we have phenomenal student-athletes. We are winning in the classroom, winning in the community and we are for sure taking care of business and winning on the ball-field. It’s an exciting group and we look forward to celebrating them tomorrow and continue to do big things and finish strong here.”

MUSB 2017 Shonda Stanton with the low 5 for Abigail Estrada after 1st HR at Ga. So

Coach Shonda Stanton is advising Herd fans to come early to see her five seniors honored before the game and to cheer the Herd on to a doubleheader sweep of the Blazers from UAB, starting around 1 p.m. on Saturday. (HI file photo)

D’Orazio led the way for the Herd, going 3-for-3 with four steals and one run. D’Orazio collected half of Marshall’s hits in the game, giving her 64 for the season. The junior speedster leads the Herd with 47 runs scored and 52 stolen bases. The Clermont, Fla., native has been among the nation’s leaders in steals this season and came into the weekend in a tie for second.

It is a busy Saturday in Huntington for Herd fans in particular and sports fans in general. Marshall University will have graduation at 11 a.m., so look for downtown to be in gridlock from about 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. or so. Then Marshall softball and UAB play a doubleheader on Senior Day, Saturday, May 6, with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. The Herd will honor Shaelynn Braxton, Jordan Dixon, Rebecca Myslenski, Chloe Parsemain and Morgan Zerkle on the field before the start of game one, and to cover all the action, the award-winning WMUL 88.1 FM sports team will be at both the softball doubleheader as well as Herd baseball at 3 p.m. Look for the games to be streamed for out of town fans at marshall.edu/wmul, softball on stream one and baseball on stream 2 (until softball is done).

Then after softball gets a sweep at “The Dot,” the MU baseball team hosts WKU in game two of the series, as baseball picked up a walk-off win on Friday, 3-2, over the Hilltoppers. Game two is at 3 p.m. at “The Deuce,” the George T. Smailes Baseball Field at the YMCA Kennedy Center on Route 2 north of Huntington and the MU campus (about 15 minutes away). The men will also play Sunday, with the time TBA.

Finally, the Kentucky Derby runs at 6:30 p.m. The Derby can be watched on WSAZ TV-3, an NBC affiliate, or if you are in the car, tune into Cat Sports 93.3 FM and 1340 for coverage of all the Derby pomp and racing, starting at 5 p.m. On ESPN 94.1 FM and AM 930, hear Pittsburgh Pirates baseball against the Milwaukee Brewers starting at 6:40 p.m.

Marshall graduation, Herd softball and baseball and the Kentucky Derby — who says there is nothing to do in Huntington?

Marshall athletics release, with additional material by Herd Insider Senior Editor Woody Woodrum

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