Olympic Sports

Marshall falls to Ilini in 12 innings in NCAA Tourney opener at UK

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Once again at John Cropp Field, the Marshall University softball team took a game to extra-innings. Once again, however, it was the other team that got the best of things in extra softball.

Marshall lost 3-2 in 8-innings to the University of Kentucky, then beat Notre Dame before being bounded out of the tournament with a 13 inning loss to Virginia Tech, all at the UK facility. Today, the Herd took Big Ten member Illinois to the 12th inning, but again lost in extra-innings when the Illini pulled out a 3-2 win in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at Lexington, Ky.

Marshall will face the loser of No. 14-seeded UK vs. DePaul in round two of the tournament on Saturday in the double-elimination tournament.

The Herd was out-hit, 11-to-8, by Illinois, and both teams had two errors in the game. Once again, the Herd was led by Morgan Zerkle,w ho was 2-for-6 hitting with one run scored, and a double, while six other Marshall players had one hit each, including Taylor McCord who drove in Zerkle in the sixth inning to tie the game and give the Herd runners at first and third with just one out.

Shaelynn Braxton reached on a fielder’s choice next, with Elicia D’Orazio remaining at third to load the bases. But B. Daiss flew out, not deep enough to bring in a runner, and Elizabeth DeShields struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch.

Both teams went 1-2-3 in the seventh, the Zerkle reached on an error by the third baseman on a bunt, stealing second and third around a ground out by D’Orazio. But McCord hit a ball back to the pitcher, keeping Zerkle at third, and Braxton struck out swinging. Illinois in the eighth put two on with two outs but Marshall got a fly out to end the threat.

Both teams got a runner to second in the ninth, then both went 1-2-3 in the 10th. In the 11th DeShield, who walked in a previous at-bat, reached on a single with two outs but went no further. Illinois got a walk to open the bottom of 11, got a one-out hit but were unable to get a runner past second.

In the 12th, Zerkle struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end another 1-2-3 inning for the Herd. Illinois opened with a single, got another one out single, then the third single of the inning to left field by Nicole Evans. That hit brought in Kiana Sherlund with the winning run and made the final 3-2.

Jordan Dixon took the loss, throwing 170 pitches (114 for strikes), allowing three runs, two earned, with two walks and four strikeouts. Illini pitcher Breanna Wonderly got the win, throwing 173 pitches (117 for strikes) and allowed two runs (both earned) a walk and eight strikeouts.

With Kentucky jumping to a 5-0 lead on DePaul by the third inning, most likely UK will meet UI on Saturday at noon, while Marshall and the Blue Demons will play an elimination game Saturday at 2:30 p.m. With a win, Marshall would then play the loser of the Wildcats vs. the Illini at 5 p.m., with the championship game/s on Sunday.

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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