Herd Softball Begins 2018 Season at No. 13 Auburn
Plainsman Invitational to also feature Wichita State, Tennessee Tech and Furman
Games Schedule with Links
AUBURN, Ala. – The Marshall softball team begins the journey of the 2018 season at the Plainsman Invitational, hosted by the No. 13 Auburn Tigers. Along with Auburn the Thundering Herd will also play the Furman Paladins. Wichita State and Tennessee Tech are also at the tournament.
Marshall’s first contest is against Auburn on Thursday, Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. eastern. The Herd then takes on Furman on Friday, Feb. 9 at 12:30 p.m. eastern. The rest of the weekend is TBD with the possibility of rain moving through the area. All games will be broadcast on 88.1 WMUL-FM and online at www.marshall.edu/wmul. The contest against Furman will also be simulcast on Facebook Live.
Brand New Coaching Staff
Jen Steele takes over the Marshall program after spending the past three seasons at the helm at Jacksonville University. Coach Steele turned around a Dolphins team that began to drop after winning the Atlantic Sun title in 2011, down to a record of 20-29 just three seasons later. In Coach Steele’s final season, the Dolphins won 30 games and finished ninth in the country in stolen bases with a program record 113. The pitching staff improved as well from a staff ERA of over 4.00 down to 2.96 in just her first season. To help direct the Marshall softball program, coach Steele brought in Nichole Andrade, known to Arizona State fans as Nichole Thompson. Andrade was an All-American as well as playing experience with the USA National Team and in the NPF with the Washington Glory. Andrade has been leading the Vienna Stars (Va.) travel team and has been instrumental in players being signed across the country including the SEC, ACC and Big 10. Next up is Sable Lee, a rising star that played at Jacksonville under Steele for two of her four seasons in uniform. Lee was a talented outfielder that has worked with Daytona State College and the Hatters Gold travel ball team, among others. Rounding out the coaching staff is Luis Andrade the volunteer assistant who brings a wealth of baseball and softball knowledge and experience to the Herd.
Marshall finished the 2017 season with a program record 42 wins and ranked No. 24 in the final USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll. The Herd was picked 30th in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Preseason poll, receiving 17 votes. Meanwhile, in Conference USA, Marshall was predicted to finish fifth. “There are a few different pre-season polls and rankings out there, and they all usually predict something different than the other,” Herd head coach Jen Steele said. “Although it’s nice to receive votes and have other coaches think highly of our program, we try not to pay too much attention to them. If pre-season predictions mattered, no one would play.”
Scouting the Opponents
No. 13 Auburn: Tigers lead series 6-0 | Thursday Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. eastern
Friday Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. eastern on SEC Network Plus
The Auburn Tigers begin the 2018 season ranked No. 13 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll. Mickey Dean takes over at Auburn after the past five at James Madison where the Dukes won an average of 47 games a year. The Tigers look to fill in the shoes of Carlee Wallace, Haley Fagan and Kasey Cooper. Top hitters returning are senior Victoria Draper (.340 avg. with 52 hits), junior Kendall Veach (26 extra base hits) and sophomore Alyssa Rivera (led with .371 avg.). In the circle, Auburn’s top two arms return in Kaylee Carlson and Makayla Martin with a combined record of 47-11 and a sub 2.00 ERA. The Tigers finished 2017 with a 49-12 record and was eliminated by eventual National Champion Oklahoma during Super Regionals. Marshall last played Auburn on Feb. 21, 2015 and lost 5-4 to the No. 16 ranked Tigers.
Wichita State: First ever meeting | Friday Feb. 9 at 1:30 p.m. eastern
The Shockers made the move to the American Athletic Conference after playing in the Missouri Valley. Wichita State was picked to finish fifth in its inaugural season in the AAC. The Shockers finished 2017 with a 32-20 record and were eliminated in the second round of the MVC tournament. Three of the top five hitters return and they all hit over .300 a year ago. Senior Mackenzie Wright hit .360 with 17 extra base hits and 10 steals. Junior Laurie Derrico finished with 51 hits including 13 homers. Sophomore Madison Perrigan finished with 12 doubles and nine home runs. All three players started all 52 games. The question will be in the circle where the only returning pitcher is Bailey Klitzke who threw 37.1 innings. Departed pitchers Katie Malone (227.2) and Jenni Brooks (83.2) combined for 311.1 innings.
Tennessee Tech: Golden Eagles lead series 3-1 | Saturday Feb. 10 at 10 a.m. eastern
The Golden Eagles look to rebound from a 16-30 season in 2017. Three of the team’s top four hitters from last season are gone but several players with significant playing experience are ready to step up. Junior infielder Gabby LaSala is the top returning hitter with a .282 average and 17 extra base hits. Departed pitcher Danielle Liberatore pitched the most innings in 2017 with 134 and a 3.55 ERA. However, Leigh Ellen Thomas threw 114.1 innings and finished with 4.78 ERA and a 6-13 record. Taylor Waldrop (37.2 innings) and Kayla Hughes (18.2) both spent time in the circle a year ago. Marshall has not played Tennessee Tech since Feb. 28, 2004, a 2-1 Tech victory.
Furman: Paladins lead series 13-11 | Saturday Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m. eastern
The Paladins got tabbed to finish second in the Southern Conference but also hold the conference preseason pitcher of the year selection in senior Lindsey Bert. The lefty finished 2017 with an 18-12 record, 2.10 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 196 innings. She held opponents to a meager .209 batting average and hit .298 with nine doubles on the offensive side. Furman ended the year 31-23 and were eliminated after two games in the SoCon tournament. The Paladins lost only one top hitter and have a strong senior class of six players, all with significant playing experience over their respective careers. Marshall played Furman on Feb. 10, 2017, and won the game 5-4 in the eighth inning.