@HerdSB Embraces Higher Expectations During Streak
Marshall brings 12-game winning streak home to face WKU, March 25-26
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall University softball team is a series sweep away from setting the school record for consecutive wins. That same team is 21-4, the best start through 25 games in program history, and received five votes in this week's Top 25 poll, the most ever for an MU softball team.
This team is neither complacent with its early season success nor superstitious in regards to its 12-game winning streak, undefeated Conference USA record (6-0) or flirtation with the Top 25. Marshall, which hosts WKU this Saturday (doubleheader, 1 p.m.) and Sunday (noon) for a three-game series at Dot Hicks Field, is willing to talk about its ascent and how much higher it'd like to climb.
"We were talking to our team about raising the expectation of your best," said Shonda Stanton, the Herd's 18th-year softball coach, "and just when you think you're at your best, the ceiling gets higher. I'm OK with them talking about those things, being in the top 25 and having an RPI of 36."
Marshall is 12-0 in March, the second-longest winning streak in program history. The 2013 squad won 14 in a row before the run ended at Houston on April 6 of that season.
The Herd has outscored its opponent 98-30 this month.
"We have a team that's really passionate about winning," said Elicia D'Orazio, a junior from Clermont, Florida. "We may not have the most energy all of the time, but have that inner-passion and ethic to work hard and get the job done. That's what makes us as successful as we are."
D'Orazio has 33 stolen bases, which ranks first in Conference USA and third nationally. She is averaging 1.32 steals per game, which is No. 1 among all Division I players.
That is only one individual performance that has sparked Marshall this season, Stanton said.
D'Orazio is first in Conference USA in batting average (.484), but she is followed closely by teammates Morgan Zerkle (third, .452) and Taylor McCord (sixth, .438). Those same players are in the top 10 in the league in runs scored, while McCord is tied for the league lead in RBIs (33).
Elsewhere, Jordan Colliflower is batting .361 for Marshall, which is hitting a league-leading .324 as a team. Shaelynn Braxton has four home runs and seven doubles. Briana Daiss has belted three homers and driven in 18 runs. Eloise Tribolet is one of the C-USA leaders in sacrifice hits.
In the circle, senior Jordan Dixon leads C-USA in strikeouts (141) and wins (15).
"I think the other thing that has impressed me is the number of athletes who have stepped up," Stanton said. "You can go up and down the lineup and find someone who has done something great for our ball club."
Stanton made sure her team knew it had garnered five votes for the top 25 before its mid-week game at UNC Greensboro on Tuesday.
"Our group understands we're fighting to get the automatic qualifier, but you can also put yourself in position to get an at-large bid, "Stanton said. "Now you're seeing the polls showing that, the RPI is showing that, your body of work is showing that. It's important to understand it, talk about it and challenge it head on."
The 2013 team with 14 consecutive wins eventually captured the C-USA tournament championship. This year's Herd team also has a chance to set the school record for wins, 41, which was set in 2003. The '03 team started 18-7 before finishing 41-17.
Stanton is not afraid to set the bar that high for her players. Every program has to have a greatest team, so why not this one?
"Anytime you're part of a team you have an opportunity to do and be something special," Stanton said. "Team 24 has an opportunity to take a run at the most wins in Marshall softball history. We have a chance to have the best winning streak in Marshall softball history. It's about winning each day, and I like our focus there."