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Two Top 15 Teams Await Marshall in Tampa

Alysia Hively is one of six seniors on the Marshall squad.

Feb. 7, 2013

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall begins its 2013 softball season in Tampa, Fla. against perennial power and No. 15 ranked Michigan on Friday at 12:15 p.m.

The Herd will get a double-dose of top-tier foes as it will play the host school, No. 12 ranked USF at 2:30 p.m. on Friday as well. Marshall will finish out the five-team USF-Demarini Tournament with a 9 a.m. game against Florida Atlantic and a 1:30 p.m. game against Samford on Saturday before facing Florida Atlantic a second time at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday.

The Last Meeting
February 11, 2011
Clearwater, Fla.

"Start Fast... Play Hard... Finish Strong" is the theme set by head coach Shonda Stanton, now in her 14th season with the Herd. A fast start is what the team will look for against the No. 15 Wolverines, a team that finished 42-17 and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals last season. It will be the highest ranked team Marshall has faced since playing No. 2 Georgia on Feb. 19, 2011.

The Thundering Herd returns just three starting position players in seniors Ashley Gue, Alysia Hively and Jazmine Valle along with Second Team All-Conference USA pitcher Andi Williamson from last season's team which finished 36-21 overall, 15-9 in C-USA. The Herd made a push for postseason play last season, winning 11 of its last 14 games and making the championship game of the C-USA Tournament, but its season ended with a 3-2 loss to Tulsa.

Picked to finish fifth in Conference USA this season, Marshall welcomes 11 newcomers to the squad, the third most of any team in the conference.

Williamson, a Harts native, led the conference and set a school record with 25 wins last season. The reigning Marshall Female Student-Athlete of the Year, who led the league in innings pitched (238) should get some help in the circle this season with the arrival of freshmen Halie Vance and Brittanie Fowler.

"We are really pleased with their development," Stanton said. "Halie has shown tremendous work ethic in making the transition from fall to spring season with her velocity and movement. Brittanie will not be outworked and do whatever it takes to get herself to position as a dependable C-USA starter. "

Marshall will have senior experience at the corner infield positions with Valle (third base) and Hively (first base) manning the posts.

"Jaz had a great junior year and we believe the best is yet to come for her this senior season," Stanton said. "She is an incredibly gifted corner who can rely on Hively at first to handle anything thrown her way. Both will be relied on heavily to produce runs."

Freshmen Racquel Escareno and Alex Bayne will both see time at shortstop. Second base could be filled by Bayne, Cooper or senior Bri Anna Hope.

Stanton said there is still a battle for the starting catcher position between junior Taylor Winton and freshman Katie Lucas, both of which have different strengths they bring to the team. Both will attempt to fill the void left by Rebecca Gamby who was a .348 hitter as a senior last season.

In an outfield considered "extremely deep" by Stanton, the speedster Gue will be a mainstay in center field. As for left and right field, the Herd could go with a number of combinations with sophomore Kristina Braxton, senior Jessica Ferrick, freshman Kaelynn Greene and junior Savanah Webster.

Expect the designated player to come from one of the outfield options with freshmen Alyssa Cook and Alex Dawes also battling to break into the lineup there.

More about the opponents: Michigan leads the all-time series against the Herd 1-0 with the last meeting coming in Tampa in 1997... The Wolverine's loss in the Super Regionals was to eventual NCA champion Alabama... USF was a World Series participant last season... Marshall is 0-9 against the Bulls and 1-0 against Samford... It will be the first meeting ever against Florida Atlantic which will join Conference USA next season.

Follow the tournament: Follow the USF-Demarini Tournament this weekend via livestats at Follow @HerdSB and @HerdZone on twitter for live scoring updates.