@HerdSB Visits No. 20 Kentucky
First pitch from Lexington set for 6 p.m.
Marshall Radio Broadcast
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Marshall softball team travels to Lexington, Ky., Tuesday April 11 to face the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats. First pitch for the single game from John Cropp Stadium is set for 6 p.m.
Marshall enters the contest 32-5 overall and have won its last six games and 23 of the past 24. The Thundering Herd is 14-1 in Conference USA and just finished off its fourth conference series sweep over the Florida Atlantic Owls on Sunday April 9. Marshall improved in the RPI standings up from 28th to 24th this week. Top 25 standings will be released Tuesday. Kentucky is 24-11 overall and 5-7 in the SEC and is ranked 19th in RPI.
The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network Plus by Neil prince (play-by-play), Carol Bruggeman (color) and Jenny Dalton-Hill (color). Dalton-Hill was the keynote speaker at Marshall’s annual Diamond Club Dinner Banquet on Feb. 3. The game will also be broadcast on 88.1 WMUL-FM and online at www.marshall.edu/wmul by Scott Hall.
No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats
Marshall and Kentucky first met on Feb. 21, 1997, the very first season for the Wildcats program. Marshall was in its fourth season of existence. Kentucky won the first matchup, 1-0, at a tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C. The Herd then traveled to Lexington for a single game on April 16, 1997 and won, 8-0. The Herd and Wildcats didn’t meet again until Feb. 27, 2000 in Chattanooga, Tenn. UK won the game 4-1. The next meeting, and the last time Marshall defeated Kentucky, was Feb. 23, 2001 once again in Chattanooga. Marshall took the game 10-5. Kelli Hall belted a two-run home run in the first inning as Marshall collected 12 hits and Sara Gulla struck out five. Nichole Corrigan went 3-for-4 with three runs scored. Four years went by before these teams met again for a doubleheader in Lexington on March 23, 2005. UK won both before Marshall went on a tear winning 16 of its next 20 games on the way to a MAC Regular Season Title. The next meeting, March, 21, 2007 in Lexington, Rachel Folden went 3-for-3 with two home runs and drove in all five runs as Marshall lost 8-5. On March 1, 2008, MU and UK met once again in Chattanooga as the Herd lost 10-4. Three more years went by before Kentucky came to Huntington for a doubleheader. Current Marshall pitching coach Chanda Bell was in uniform for the 18th ranked Wildcats but the ace did not throw in either contest as the Herd lost both. Marshall lost two close games in Lexington in 2013. First, a 4-3 loss on April 9. The next was during Marshall’s first ever trip to the NCAA Regional tournament. Kentucky was the host and just edged out the Herd, 2-1, in eight innings. Marshall has hosted UK for the past two matchups in 2014 (6-2 loss) and 2016 (1-0 loss). A 2015 meeting in Lexington was canceled due to rain. The last six matchups, UK has been ranked in the Top 25.
Scouting the Wildcats
Kentucky enters the contest 24-11 and 5-7 in the SEC. The No. 20 Wildcats were just swept by No. 17 Tennessee over the past weekend. UK had a 14-game win streak earlier in the season from Feb. 24 to March 18 that included wins over Florida Atlantic, Michigan and Georgia. Since the win streak ended the Wildcats have gone 5-7. Head Coach Rachel Lawson has turned the Kentucky program into a perennial contender in the SEC and in postseason play. John Cropp Stadium is one of the finest facilities in the country with the ability to host the SEC Tournament as well as NCAA Regionals.
This season, UK is batting .287 as a team and is led by four players all hitting over .300: Bailey Vick (.357), Abbey Cheek (.347), Katie Reed (.345) and Erin Rethlake (.309). Cheek leads the team with seven home runs and 26 RBIs. Kentucky has stolen 63 bases in 74 attempts as both Rethlake (16) and Reed (12) are in double figures. UK has outscored its opponents 127-90. Defensively, the team holds an ERA of 2.04 and sports a .967 fielding percentage. Left-handed senior pitcher Meagan Prince leads with an ERA of 1.52 and 113 strikeouts in 105.2 innings of work. Prince has a record of 11-6. Catcher Jenny Schaper has thrown out 11 runners this season and picked off two.
Dixon Just Keeps on Winning...and winning and winning
Senior pitcher Jordan Dixon racked up her second straight Conference USA Pitcher of the Week award after earning three more wins and a save as the Herd has now won six games in a row and 23 of its past 24. Dixon has won her last 16 consecutive starts and has not lost a game since Feb. 26 at UNC. With all of the wins, she is second in the country in total wins with 23 (Megan Good of JMU leads with 24) and is just one win shy of the 100th of her career. Dixon has 34 more wins than any other pitcher in Marshall history.
Grand Larceny on the Bases
Marshall softball has continued its dominance in base running going for the next 60 feet. The Herd has 123 steals in just 37 games and is currently leading the country with 3.32 per game. Marshall has ripped off at least one base in every game but five this season. At the Eagle Classic, Marshall stole 34 bases in five games, including the team and Conference USA record 16 versus Delaware State. Elicia D’Orazio and Morgan Zerkle are in a little battle at the top for the Herd. D’Orazio has 41 and Zerkle is just 11 behind with 30. Both players are ranked in the top ten in the nation. D’Orazio is third with 1.11 per game and Zerkle ranks seventh with .88 per contest. Against Wright State, D’Orazio became the sixth player in Herd history with 100 or more career stolen bases. She is now fifth with 104. Marshall reached 100 steals in the fewest games in program history in just 27 games. The old record of 30 was set just this past season in 2016.
The Herd has been finding its timely hitting with players on base in 2017. 185 of the teams 216 runs have been driven in as seven different players have 10 or more RBIs and five players have driven in 20 or more. Just through the top four batters in the everyday lineup, Marshall has 119 RBIs. In the leadoff, Elicia D’Orazio has 20. Batting second, Morgan Zerkle has a career-high 32. Batting third, Taylor McCord has produced a career-best 42. And finally, batting fourth, Shaelynn Braxton has 25 RBIs and is second all-time at Marshall with 165. In addition, Briana Daiss has 22, Abigail Estrada has 15 and Ali Burdette has chipped in 11 RBIs.