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Head Coach Shonda Stanton enters her 18th season at the helm of the Marshall Softball team and her 19th season overall as a college softball head coach. Since taking over at Marshall in 1999-2000, Stanton has led the softball program to the forefront of Marshall Athletics and has established a program of excellence and significance. Stanton is the winningest coach in Marshall history with 518 wins and 545 wins total in her coaching career. She has led Marshall to eleven 30 win seasons.
Due to Stanton’s and Marshall’s success, she is a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America committee, head coach representative for Conference USA with the NFCA and on the Head Coaches Council. She has also been a Top-25 voter. Stanton is an advisor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In 2015, Stanton was named the Judy Sweet Award winner as a graduate of the NCAA Women Coaches Academy. She also serves on the coaches council for the Alliance of Women Coaches. As a speaker and clinician, Stanton has shot an instructional video series with Championship Productions.
Stanton has participated in five conference championship games, including back-to-back in 2005-06 and three straight from 2012-14. Under her guidance Marshall has captured two Mid-American Conference regular season titles (2003 and 2005) and the 2013 Conference USA Tournament Championship victory over Houston. The title led to the Herd’s first ever trip to the NCAA Regional Tournament in Lexington, Ky. Marshall picked up its first NCAA tournament win, 3-1, over Notre Dame on May 18, 2013.
Stanton has established a successful and winning culture on and off the field. Along with over 500 wins, Marshall has established itself as one of the best base-stealing programs in the country. Since Stanton’s first season in 2000, the Thundering Herd has been nationally ranked in the Top-10 in stolen bases 10 times, more than any other program during that span. The Herd led the country in steals in 2011 and 2015. Marshall has racked up 1,766 swipes during her tenure, an average of 103.88 per season. 15 different players have combined for 32 seasons of 20 or more stolen bases in a season. The Herd has led Conference USA in steals every year except twice since joining C-USA for the 2006 season.
During Stanton’s time in the Mid-American Conference from 2000-05, Marshall had players honored 24 times as either first or second team all-conference, two Freshman of the Year awards (Amanda Williams-2003 and Rachel Folden-2005), the 2004 Player of the Year (Sierra Davenport), the 2003 Pitcher of the Year (Randi Nielson) and coach Stanton was twice named the MAC Coach of the Year (2003 and 2005). 33 times her players were selected as either conference player or pitcher of the week.
Since moving to Conference USA in 2006, 46 times Marshall players have been named to the first, second or all-freshman teams. Rachel Folden was named the C-USA Player of the Year in 2006 and 2008. Marshall also garnered the C-USA Newcomer of the Year in 2008 (Kelly Nielson) and 2009 (Katie Murphree) and the 2015 Freshman of the Year (Elicia D’Orazio). 30 times Marshall players of been named C-USA player or pitcher of the week. Over the span of coach Stanton’s tenure, 37 times her players have been selected as a NFCA Mideast All-Region selection.
Marshall softball players under coach Stanton have also been honored with other specialty awards. Folden was a four-time NFCA/Louisville Slugger All-American and a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award in 2008. Four times Herd players have been honored with the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award. Melanie Stoehr was the first in 2009 and then Ashley Gue won the award three straight seasons (2011-13). Rachael Sofie was named a 2009 Strength and Conditioning All-American as a senior.
Stanton has coached several players who have moved on to success in the National Pro Fastpitch League and playing internationally. The Herd has seen Randi Nielson, Amanda Williams, Jessica Williams, Noelle Adams, Rachel Folden and Andi Williamson star in the pros. On the international scene Rebecca Gamby (Team USA camp invite), Elicia D’Orazio (Team Puerto Rico), Morgan Zerkle (USA National Elite Team), Erika Bennett (Team Mexico) and Eloise Tribolet (Team France) have enjoyed success during and after playing for the Herd.
Off the field, the Marshall softball team has been visible in the community and has starred in the classroom. The Herd has finished with a team grade point average of 3.0 or higher every semester of her career, with a top-15 national ranking for team GPA during three seasons. 118 times since 2000, Marshall softball players have been honored as NFCA Academic All-Americans with a grade point average of 3.50 or higher during an academic year. 16 times players have been selected to the MAC or the C-USA Academic All-Conference teams. Nine players have been named to the ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-District team and in 2015 Morgan Zerkle was named a Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American. In addition, 21 players have received the Conference USA Academic Medal a total of 38 times for a GPA of 3.75 or better during an academic year.
In 2016, Stanton recorded her 500th career win at Marshall on March 13, 2016 vs. UTEP with an 8-3, series sweeping victory. In the conference tournament Marshall recorded its 30th win of the season for the 11th time under coach Stanton. The Herd continued to push out incredible numbers batting .310 as a team for the year and finished third in the country in stolen bases averaging 2.75 per game (154 total). Marshall had five players bat over .300 and two finish with averages over .400 (Kaelynn Greene at .486 and Morgan Zerkle at .482). During the 2016 season the Thundering Herd saw a few major career records fall as senior outfielder Kaelynn Greene and junior pitcher Jordan Dixon etched their names into history. Greene set the career marks for hits (299), stolen bases (141) and sacrifice hits (38) as well as the single season mark for stolen bases (51). Dixon became Marshall’s all-time leader in wins (76) and strikeouts (821). In addition to the success of the team, junior Morgan Zerkle was named to the USA Women’s National Elite Team and competed at the World Cup of Softball XI joining teammates Elicia D’Orazio and Eloise Tribolet and former Herd pitcher Erika Bennett on the international circuit.
In 2015, Stanton gained her 500th overall win at Furman on March 28 with a 3-0 win. Marshall finished the season leading the nation in stolen bases for the second time under Stanton’s tutelage with a team record 153 swipes and averaged 3.06 per game. Along with breaking the team steals record her squad shattered many team and individual records and established many firsts in program history. On the way to a 35-15 season, the Herd set records for team batting average (.345), highest on-base percentage (.407), most runs scored per game (5.4), most hits per game (9.28), highest RBI per game (4.56) and most sacrifice flies (17). Individually, sophomore Morgan Zerkle established records for batting average (.506), runs scored (62), hits (89) and led the nation in steals with 47 and .94 per game. Sophomore Jordan Dixon became the first pitcher in the country to reach 30 wins for the season and became the second pitcher in team history to record over 300 strikeouts (308). 2015 was the first time that Marshall had more than one player bat over .400 (Zerkle .506, Emileigh Cooper .434 and Kaeylnn Greene .429), five players recorded 50 or more hits (Zerkle 89, Greene 70, Elicia D’Orazio 57, Cooper 53 and Shaelynn Braxton 50), two players with 70 or more hits, two players with an on-base percentage of .500 or higher (Zerkle .549 and Cooper .500), four players scoring 30 or more runs since 2003 (Zerkle 62, D’Orazio 34, Cooper 32 and Greene 31) and four players with 20 or more steals since 2011 (Zerkle 47, Greene 27, D’Orazio 24 and Braxton 20).
By the end of the 2014 season, Marshall participated in its third consecutive Conference USA Tournament Championship game. The Herd battled its way into the final as the seventh seed defeating both UAB (4-0) and ECU (8-7) along the way. Marshall ended the season with one of its highest team batting averages hitting .292. Four players finished with averages over .300. Sophomore Kaelynn Greene broke the 11-year old record team record for hits in a season with 81 and became the first player in Herd history to record 80 or more hits in a season. Freshman Morgan Zerkle broke another decade old team record with 48 stolen bases. Marshall recorded 119 stolen bases and finished eighth in the country. It was the sixth consecutive season that the Herd stole over 100 bases. Along with speed, the 2014 squad packed some power as sophomore Shaelynn Braxton became the first Herd player since Rachel Folden in 2008 to record 30 or more extra base hits in a season as Braxton belted 16 home runs, 14 doubles and one triple. The Herd smacked 45 home runs during the year, the third highest total in team history and its second straight season with 40 or more homers. Freshman pitcher Jordan Dixon shattered the Marshall freshman record for strikeouts in a season with 245 to go along with 20 wins.
2013 was a season to remember for Marshall and coach Stanton. After beginning the year 3-7, the Herd came storming back finishing the season 36-21 and its first Conference USA Tournament Championship. Along the way Marshall recorded a program-best 14-game winning streak (March 13-April 6) and had conference sweeps over Southern Miss, UCF and Memphis. The long winning streak began with a 5-1 win at Radford that was coach Stanton’s 400th win at Marshall (427th overall). The Herd entered the conference tournament as the four seed. Marshall played a memorable game in the first round against the five seed ECU Pirates. Marshall trailed 4-1 and then mounted a comeback and won the game 5-4. The Herd moved on to face the top seeded UAB Blazers. Marshall won the contest in a defensive and pitching battle, 1-0, and advanced to its second consecutive championship game. On May 11, a sunny Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., the goal of the season came to fruition as the Thundering Herd defeated Houston 3-1 to take its first Conference USA Title and receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament. Marshall was placed in the Lexington, Ky., regional. May 17, the Herd stepped on the field for the first time in the NCAA postseason. The Herd lost a closely contested game to the host Kentucky Wildcats, 2-1, in extra innings in front of packed crowd of almost 1,700 fans. Many wearing Green and White. The next day, Marshall won its first regional game with a 3-1 victory over Notre Dame. Later that day Marshall was eliminated in another extra inning battle against Virginia Tech, 3-2.
Along with the team success, individually pitcher Andi Williamson dominated for the Herd. Williamson set records for wins in a season (33) strikeouts (364) and broke the 12-year career record for strikeouts (731). Offensively the Herd stole over 100 bases (133) for the fifth consecutive season, ranked second in the nation, and crushed 42 home runs.
2012 was a great bounce-back year for Marshall. After a couple of tough seasons, the Herd finished 36-21 and ended the year in the Conference USA Championship game. On April 1, Marshall secured an 8-0 series sweeping victory over UTEP that gave Stanton her 400th career victory as a coach (373rd at Marshall). Marshall entered the conference tournament as the three seed after sweeping UCF at home during senior weekend (May 5-6). The Herd defeated ECU in the first round of the tournament, 8-1. Marshall then battled out a 10-inning contest against UAB that was playing on its own field in Birmingham, Ala. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 10th, with the bases loaded, senior Samantha Spurlock sent a pitch back up the middle that scored freshman Kristina Braxton from third and sent the Herd into the championship game. Marshall lost a close battle with Tulsa, 3-2. Marshall had five players all finish batting over .300 for the year and slugged 97 extra base hits. For the fourth straight year the Herd stole over 100 bases (135) and finished second in the country. Junior pitcher Andi Williamson became the first Marshall pitcher to record over 200 strikeouts (268) in a season since Sara Gulla in 2001.
In 2011, Marshall led the country in stolen bases for the first time. The Herd swiped 134 bases in 53 games for an average of 2.53 thefts per game. It was the fifth time since 2003 that Marshall was ranked in the Top-10 in the country in stolen bases.
In 2010, Marshall once again showed its prowess on the base paths finishing fifth in the nation with 125 stolen bases. Four players recorded 18 or more steals. The Herd belted 41 homers during the season with two players in double-digits. The pitching staff combined for over 300 strikeouts for the first time since 2001.
The Herd finished the 2009 season one game short of the Conference USA Championship after winning more than 30 games for the seventh time under coach Stanton. The Herd set a then team record batting .294 as a unit and recorded 125 stolen bases. It was the first time back over 100 steals in a season since 2004. The Herd finished the season ranked fifth in the country in stolen bases. It was Marshall’s second time ranked in the top five. The Herd had three winning streaks of at least four games during the year. On April 8 against Radford, Stanton recorded her 300th win at Marshall with a 6-5 home victory.
2008 was one of the most successful slugging seasons in program history. Marshall established team records for home runs (52), slugging percentage (.465) and total bases (669). Seniors Rachel Folden, Sam Rodriguez and Deanna Tourville combined for 37 home runs, 37 doubles, 78 extra base hits, 156 hits and 312 total bases. Folden rounded out her career as Marshall’s all-time leader in batting average (.405), slugging percentage (.770), on base percentage (.519), hits (266), home runs (58), RBIs (196), total bases (505), walks (147), intentional walks (25) and most base runners caught stealing (43). Folden racked up postseason awards as well being named the C-USA Player of the Year for the second time and her fourth selection as a NFCA/Louisville Slugger All-American. The Herd played a team record 11 games against Top-25 opponents and pulled out victories over No. 8 DePaul on Feb. 8 (4-3) and a doubleheader sweep over No. 24 Ohio State on April 2 (11-0 and 6-1). It was the first time that Marshall had multiple victories over ranked opponents in one season. Another milestone was reached on April 15 as Marshall defeated Miami (OH), 2-1, and earned Stanton her 300th overall victory.
In 2007, Marshall won more than 30 games for the fifth straight season (32-26). This included a win over No. 24 North Carolina State on Feb. 16. Rachel Folden bat over .400 for the second time in her career and became the first player in team history with more than one season batting over the .400 mark. The junior was named an All-American for the third time while crushing 14 home runs and 13 doubles. The catcher was almost an automatic runner at first as she was walked a team record 51 times and held an on-base percentage of .560.
In 2006, Stanton brought her team into new territory as a brand new member of Conference USA. Marshall had spent 1998 through 2005 in the MAC and would be facing all new teams. The Herd showed that it was a serious contender as Marshall fought its way into the Conference USA Tournament Championship. On March 12, against one of Marshall’s newest conference rivals, Southern Miss, the Herd won 9-1 and earned Stanton her 200th win at Marshall. The Herd went 33-23 and finished conference play at 15-9. The 2006 season also saw the conclusion of the most successful class in program history. The 2006 senior class helped the Herd to 143 wins over four seasons, two MAC regular season titles and two conference championship game appearances. Amanda Williams ended her collegiate playing career at the top of many Herd offensive categories including games started (230), runs scored (184), hits (265), doubles (68) and RBIs (142). Combined with her twin sister Jessica the tandem were both four-time all-conference selections. In the classroom this group was just as successful finishing 12th in the country for team GPA. It was the third time that Marshall finished the season ranked in the top 15 for team GPA. The Herd ended the season with a .285 team batting average and belted over 40 home runs for just the second time in program history.
2005 was a big season for the Herd. Marshall finished the year with 38 wins, tied for second best in program history, and won its second Mid-American Conference regular season title. Stanton’s group went through conference play with a record of 20-4 in its final season in the MAC. Among the wins, on April 9, Coach Stanton earned her 200th career win with a 2-1 victory at Miami (OH). Stanton was named the MAC Coach of the Year for the second time and the Herd also came away with the Freshman of the Year Award with Rachel Folden. Marshall hit 40 home runs during the season for the first time in program history and stole 90 bases. Senior pitcher Randi Nielson won over 20 games (21) for the second time in her career. By the end of the season Marshall was in the MAC Championship game for the first time but lost a 5-2 heartbreaker to Miami.
In 2004, Marshall set a few records during the year. The Herd stole over 100 bases for the second straight season and finished third in the country. Its highest ranking to date in steals. Senior Sierra Davenport was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year with a .390 average and stealing a team record 41 bases. Under Stanton’s tutelage, Davenport became a Marshall Athletics Hall of Famer as she set the mark for most career steals in the MAC (130 and still unbroken) and set team records for career hits (235) as well. Davenport was the first player in team history to steal over 40 bases in a season and did it twice (2003-04). The Herd also finished its highest in the classroom as Marshall was ranked fifth in the nation with a 3.42 team GPA for the academic year.
2003 was a season full of surprises and records for the Herd. The Herd was picked to finish second in the MAC East division and instead ran away with the overall top spot. Starting five freshman every game, Marshall went on to a team-best 41-17 record and 20-4 in conference action. The Herd won its first regular season championship. Due to the success, Marshall wrapped up postseason awards with Coach of the Year (Stanton), Pitcher of the Year (Randi Nielson) and Freshman of the Year (Amanda Williams). Williams set rookie marks for the Herd that still stand with the highest batting average (.421), runs scored (51) and hits (75). Nielson went 23-6 with an ERA of 1.32 on her way to pitcher of the year. The Herd established club records for team batting average (.293), runs scored (278) and of course wins (41). Marshall was eliminated one game away from the MAC Championship game in the tournament. In the classroom, Marshall finished seventh in the country for team GPA. Its highest ranking to date.
Stanton spent the first three seasons at Marshall changing the culture of the team to a winning one. She took over a team in 1999-2000 that had won just 11 of 43 conference over the previous two seasons and was picked to finish last in the Mid-American Conference preseason polls. The young coach guided Marshall to a 25-27 record and finished tied for first in the MAC East as the Herd went 12-8 in conference play. The following season in 2001, Marshall won 35 games behind a stout pitching staff that featured future Marshall Athletics Hall of Famer Sara Gulla. Gulla established pitching records for strikeouts in a season (270) and career (727) as well as winning a career-best 21 games. Marshall finished a club-best 15-9 in MAC play.
Stanton spent the 2007 and 2008 summers coaching the professional softball club, Akron Racers of the National Pro Fastpitch league. Stanton guided the Racers to a regular season second place finish in 2007 with a 26-17 overall record. Her reputation as one of the elite offensive coaches was supported at the professional level when Stanton managed the Racers leading hitter Norrelle Dickson to a .387 batting average, a league best. Under the tutelage of Stanton, Akron's second baseman, Veronica Wootsen snagged the 2007 Nokona Gold Glove Offensive Player of the Year Award.
PRIOR TO MARSHALL
Stanton joined Marshall after heading the program at Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI). During her time at IUPUI, Stanton inherited an NCAA Division II squad that finished 8-20, and promptly led the first-year Division I program to a 27-25 record, a spot in the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament semifinals and a victory over Notre Dame. Stanton's lone season with the Jaguars is currently the only winning season in the program's Division I history.
Stanton received her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree in History at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While at UNC Greensboro, Stanton was a four-year starter, three-year captain, and was instrumental in the Spartans consecutive Big South Conference crowns. During her senior season, Stanton scored 66 runs, eighth best in the nation.
Over her career, UNC Greensboro posted a 151-72-3 record, and finished as Big South Conference champions twice. Stanton is a Charter Member of the Spartan Heroes at UNC Greensboro. The society was created by Stanton and a number of other Spartan students to increase community service outreach programs in the greater Greensboro area.
The All-Big South performer moved on to Ashland University. Stanton was responsible for many assignments within the athletic department beyond her general softball duties. The Sharon, Pa., native served as an assistant women's basketball coach as well as assisting the women's volleyball program. While at Ashland, she earned a Master's of Education in Sports Science with a stellar 3.85 GPA.
Stanton acted as a graduate assistant for the Eagles. She was an integral part of a nationally recognized program within the NCAA Division II level. During her stay, the softball program set a school record for victories in a season (53), won a second consecutive Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) title and earned a second straight NCAA Division II playoff berth. In the 1997-98 season, the Eagles finished 53-6, won the conference championship and hosted its regional tournament. That season, the entire coaching staff was selected as the coaching staff of the year in the GLIAC. All in all, Ashland compiled a 94-23 record en route to successive bids to the NCAA National Tournament.
Stanton was equally successful on the field after her collegiate days. She played in Women's ASA Fastpitch Summerball for the Chet Smith Lady All-Stars in Columbus, Ohio, and the Buckeye Slammers in Akron, Ohio, from 1994-96. Both teams were Class "A" National Qualifiers and the Slammers captured the Class "B" National Championship in 1994. In October of 2016, Stanton was inducted into the North Olmstead High School Hall of Fame where she was a three-sport athlete and an 11-time letter award winner.
Stanton and husband Joe have been married for 16 years and reside in Huntington with their two daughters Shayla (13) and Gianna (10) and son Josiah (5).