May 9, 2014
BOCA RATON, Fla. - Marshall softball (28-30) won its first extra-inning game of the season against ECU (28-20), earning a spot in the Conference USA title game for the third consecutive season. The eight-inning thriller was won by one run, 8-7.
In 2012, the Thundering Herd fell to Tulsa in a one-run ball game (3-2) in Birmingham, Ala. and won in 2013 against Houston (3-1) in Tulsa, Okla.
"When you're a student-athlete this is such a journey and our kids owned their journey today," coach Shonda Stanton said. "They went out there and they battled."
Sophomore Raquel Escareno (Wellington, Colo.) had the game-winning RBI of the semifinal in the top of the eighth with a bases-loaded shot into left field that allowed Marshall to take the one-run lead.
Shaelynn Braxton (Woodbridge, Va.) connected for her 16th long ball of the season and first of the team in postseason action on Friday. She ended the day 3-for-4 with three RBI.
Freshman Morgan Zerkle (Milton, W.Va.) had a career first, registering two hits in the same inning. She was 3-for-5 on the day with two runs scored. The rookie also added a stolen base to her top spot in the Thundering Herd records, which now sits at 47.
The team set two new Marshall single-season records today. With eight runs scored against the Pirates the 2014 team beat the previous 278 notch (2003), sitting at 282 this season. This bunch also set a new RBI record after tallying seven versus ECU, replacing the previous 238 (2008) with 244.
The Herd will defend its 2013 title against the winner of No. 1 Tulsa and No. 5 North Texas Saturday at noon.
Marshall 8, ECU 7 (8)
The Herd wasted no time in breaking open the game, taking a 6-0 lead in the first inning over the Pirates.
Zerkle led off the first inning and the game with a single up the middle. On two wild pitches, she settled in on third base. Sophomore Kaelynn Greene (Eastvale, Calif.) drew a walk to put runners on the corners, and both speedsters advanced on the third wild pitch of the inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Greene stole third to put a runner 60 feet from scoring, but it didn't matter to S. Braxton, who smashed a two-run homer to push Marshall ahead by three, 3-0.
Senior Savanah Webster (Las Vegas, Nev.) kept things alive and doubled in the right-center gap to put another runner in scoring position for the Herd. She swapped places with freshman pinch runner Jessica Watts (Wayne, W.Va.), who took third base on a fielding error that allowed Escareno (2-for-5) to reach base safely.
Escareno saw no one covering second base on the previous play and made her way over to put runners on second and third. With one out on the board, senior Taylor Winton (Federal Way, Wash.) connected for an RBI single to advance both runners, scoring Watts, 4-0.
The rally kept moving through lineup as juniors Emileigh Cooper (Jackson, Ohio) and Kristina Braxton (Woodbridge, Va.) each earned an RBI before the final out to set the score at 6-0.
The Pirates answered in the bottom of the inning with two runs off of two hits, while capitalizing on three free bases.
Both teams were scoreless through two innings and notched one run in the fourth to set the score at 7-3 in the Herd's favor.
The Pirates came out in the fifth inning prepared to battle and did, knotting the game with four runs off of four hits, 7-7.
After two scoreless innings, the contest was forced into extras - the Herd's third extra-inning game of the season (0-2).
Marshall took the one run advantage with one-out on the board. Greene was the first aboard, and she reached on an infield slap single. Greene moved to second on a hit into left field from S. Braxton and to third on a Webster drawn walk.
Escareno had the defining moment that gave Marshall its first extra-inning win of the season with an RBI single into left field.
The Pirates were retired in order to put a finish to the semifinal game. Freshman Jordan Dixon (Edmond, Okla.) earned the victory to even her record to 20-20 on the season.
Marshall outhit ECU 14-to-13 and had its second errorless game of the tournament against the Pirates, while its opponent recorded two errors.