Olympic Sports

No. 25 Marshall Softball make final C-USA roadie of ’17 to MTSU

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The No. 25-ranked Marshall softball team is on the road for its final road trip of the regular season at the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, April 29-30. The Thundering Herd is 35-7 overall and 15-3 in Conference USA. The Blue Raiders are 18-23 and 5-11 in conference play.

Marshall has been making program history this season with wins, win streaks and statistical records. However, Marshall has been getting recognition in the national rankings as well. Below are the Herd’s spots in the Top 25 poll and RPI this season:

March 21, received 5 votes – 34th overall – RPI 36th; March 28, received 13 votes – 30th overall – RPI 29th; April 4, received 11 votes – 30th overall – RPI 28th; April 11, received 32 votes – 26th overall – RPI 24th; April 18, received 7 votes – 33rd overall – RPI 27th; April 25: No. 25 overall – RPI 25th.

The three-game series begins with a doubleheader on Saturday, April 29, at 3 p.m. (EDT). The final game is set for Sunday, April 30, at 1 p.m. EDT. Fans can tune into the games on 88.1 WMUL-FM and online atwww.marshall.edu/wmul<http://www.marshall.edu/wmul> through one of the Listen Live links as Scott Hall will have the broadcast. The games will also be live-streamed through Conference USA TV.

Marshall is coming off it’s Conference USA bye week in which the Herd had three games canceled due to rain. Marshall played at home against Ohio (3-2 win) on April 18. Then had the single-game at Morehead State canceled on April 19 and then played just one game of a three-game series at Virginia Tech. The Herd won the Friday night contest 8-3 before the Saturday doubleheader was canceled.

This week also saw senior Morgan Zerkle was selected as the 26th and final pick of the 2017 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) draft Monday, April 24, by the Scrap Yard Dawgs. The Dawgs are based out of The Woodlands, Texas, just north of Houston. The team watched the draft together at Fat Patty’s on Third Ave.

When Zerkle’s name was called, the room erupted into yells and cheers of “We Are Marshall!” The senior is already a member of Team USA for 2017, and with the selection by the Scrap Yard Dawgs, will have a summer full of softball. Seven former Herd players, two assistant coaches and Coach Stanton have all spent time in the NPF:

Melissa Frost – Akron Racers (1999)

Randi Nielson – Arizona Heat (2005)

Tracee McCoy (assistant coach with the Herd 2004-05) – Akron Racers (2004, 2006-07)

Amanda Williams – Chicago Bandits (2006, 2011-12), Rockford Thunder (2007-09) and Tennessee Diamonds (2010)

Jessica Williams – Chicago Bandits (2006), Rockford Thunder (2007-08), USSSA Pride (2009-2010) and Akron Racers (2011)

Noelle Adams – Rockford Thunder (2007)

Shonda Stanton – Coached Akron Racers (2007-08)

Rachel Folden – Chicago Bandits (2008-11) and Carolina Diamonds (2012)

Chanda Bell (current assistant) – Chicago Bandits (2012)

Andi Williamson – Chicago Bandits (2013-14), USSSA Pride (2015), Dallas Charge (2016)

Marshall has its usual national spot as a leader in stolen bases, and with two players ranked in the top 10. However, the Herd is ranked among the top 25 in other categories as a team and individually.

Stolen Bases Per Game: Team 1st (3.31) Individual – Elicia D’Orazio Tied for 1st (1.12) and Morgan Zerkle 6th (.90)

Batting Average: Team 14th (.321) Individual – Morgan Zerkle 2nd (.476)

RBIs: Individual – Taylor McCord Tied for 21st (47)

RBIs Per Game: Individual – Taylor McCord 19th (1.12)

Runs Per Game: Individual – Elicia D’Orazio 15th (1.07)

Triples: Individual – Morgan Zerkle Tied for 17th (5)

Triples Per Game: Team Tied for 22nd (.29) Individual – Morgan Zerkle Tied for 17th (.13)

Slugging Percentage: Team 24th (.478)

Strikeouts: Individual – Jordan Dixon 6th (235)

Wins: Individual – Jordan Dixon 2nd (26)

Win/Loss Percentage: Team 11th (.833)

Marshall and Middle Tennessee met for the first time on March 1, 1997, at the UNC Tournament at Chapel Hill. The Herd won the high-scoring game 8-7. The two teams did not meet again until Feb. 25, 2011, at the Auburn War Eagle Classic. The Blue Raiders took advantage of three Herd errors in the second inning to win 3-2. That game has been the only time in the 11 meeting history that MTSU has defeated Marshall.

The two teams have met each year over the past three seasons as members of Conference USA. The Herd has swept all three series. Middle Tennessee visited Huntington for the first time in 2016, and the Herd outscored the Blue Raiders, 23-2, in three games. Jordan Dixon pitched all three games (19 innings) and struck out 30 batters.

Zerkle was back in the defensive lineup for the first time since sustaining an injury and belted a home run in game one. She recorded her eighth career triple while going 3-for-4 in game three. The Herd collected 37 hits in the three games.

Middle Tennessee enters the series 18-23 overall and 5-11 in conference. 19 of the 23 losses have been by three or fewer runs, and the Blue Raiders are on a five-game winning streak. Over the past two-C-USA series, MTSU took one game from FAU and then won game one over UAB before the next two games were postponed due to rain. UAB and MTSU will attempt to make up the two contests on May 3, two days before UAB is to play at Marshall.

Junior Precious Birdsong leads the team with a .458 average that jumps up to .490 in conference games. Birdsong also leads with 54 hits and 21 stolen bases. Freshman Summer Burgess is batting .323 and .362 in the conference. Burgess leads the team with seven doubles. In the circle, junior Cori Jennings has logged the most innings with 146.2 with a record of 10-12, a 2.10 ERA and 99 strikeouts. Junior Gretchen Greer has a winning record at 7-3 in 61.1 innings, a 2.62 ERA and 57 strikeouts.

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