MCGILL: Dixon Driven By More Than Milestones
Word on the Herd -- April 20, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – There are pitchers who attack hitters, and others who nibble around the plate throughout an at-bat. Marshall senior Jordan Dixon is certainly the former, and she pursues her on-the-field ambitions with the same directness.
“I just want to be the best pitcher Marshall has ever had,” she said one day this spring while sitting on the aluminum bleachers at Dot Hicks Field. “I want to do things that have never been accomplished before.”
Done and done. Sort of.
In a 13-day span this month, Dixon recorded her 1,000th strikeout (April 2 at Southern Mississippi) and her 100th career win (April 14 at Florida International). Thousands of players have competed in Division I softball over the decades, but only 58 have ever paired 100 career pitching victories with 1,000 Ks. Dixon, a 5-foot-4 right-hander from Edmond, Oklahoma, is now in that exclusive club, which should cement her place as the program’s best hurler to date.
That, however, simply will not suffice. The triple-digit wins milestone and the quadruple-figure strikeout number are merely outs 1 and 2. She has another hurdle to clear in order to retire the side.
“I know she wanted 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts,” Marshall softball coach Shonda Stanton said, “but I think more than anything else she wants to lead this team farther than it has ever gone.”
Marshall and Dixon are on the right track. The Thundering Herd is 34-7 overall heading into a three-game non-conference series at Virginia Tech (the first game is Friday at 7 p.m., and then a doubleheader follows Saturday at noon). MU’s winning percentage stands at .829, well ahead of the program record of .707 set in 2003.
The program came within a few votes and one spot of cracking the Top 25 this season, and Dixon’s trusty right arm is a significant piece to the puzzle.
Dixon is 25-5 in 36 appearances (27 starts) this season, with a career-best 1.74 earned run average and 225 strikeouts against 58 walks. Her strikeout-to-walk ratio and strikeouts per seven innings are also career bests, and she is only the second pitcher in Conference USA history to join the aforementioned 100/1,000 club (East Carolina’s Toni Paisley is the other).
Dixon has taken care of the individual accomplishments. The team goals are what drives her.
“She wants to be a champion,” Stanton said.
Jordan Dixon is one of six children born to Linda Bean-Dixon. Jordan has two older sisters and younger brother triplets. Linda was so enamored with the idea of having a boy as her third child that, even though she didn’t get her wish, she gave Jordan a traditional boys name. Six weeks later, Linda found out she was pregnant with naturally occurring triplets and that all three were boys. Andrew, Joel and Lance were born 10 months after Jordan.
“We’ve all played sports our whole lives,” Jordan said.
Jordan’s older sisters played softball at the University of Arkansas, and the triplets initially enrolled at the University of Oklahoma to wrestle. Jordan was the outlier, heading 950 miles east to Huntington, West Virginia. It wasn’t initially a move Jordan wanted to make, but an official visit changed her.
“Marshall was very persistent in recruiting me,” Jordan said. “I didn’t initially want to take my visit, but I did and committed right away.”
That came with Linda’s blessing. She had helped her first two children land at a Division I softball program, and by the time Jordan was being recruited she had already started to market to college wrestling programs her standout wrestling triplets. Linda zeroed in on what Shonda Stanton could do for her daughter in the circle and away from the field.
Four years later, Linda’s third daughter is surpassing major milestones and confirming her place as one of the best pitchers in school and Conference USA history.
“Best decision ever,” Linda said. “There was no doubt from the first day she made her decision and I met her coach.”
Jordan has a simple approach to stepping into the circle.
“Every game I go out with the mindset that I’m going to strike every single batter out,” she said.
Besides, no lefty or righty power hitter who steps up to the plate will be as fearsome as the opponent her mother is battling: breast cancer.
Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer in November. She initially felt a small lump and, as the director of women’s health at the Renaissance Women’s Center, knew she had to be proactive. She went for a checkup and dodged ominous news. Two months later the lump grew from pebble-sized to a stone. A second doctor visit revealed she had papillary carcinoma of the breast – a rare type of cancer. She had a trio of surgeries that last approximately five hours each, and then started chemotherapy at the end of February.
Linda’s treatment is brutal because she opted to attack the cancer in the same way Jordan goes after hitters – aggressively and directly.
“It’s the worst chemo you can take,” Linda said. “It kills fast growing cells, which is the kind of cancer I have. It’s a rough cycle.”
Her chemotherapy cycles last two weeks. She begins treatment on a Friday and continues it through the weekend until Tuesday.
“I’m so out of it I really don’t know who I am or where I’m at,” Linda said.
She then has eight “easy” days to recover before starting the treatment again. Her final treatment is May 26, and she hopes to return to West Virginia for Marshall’s regular season home finale against UAB on May 5-6. She wants to see Jordan’s senior day festivities.
The Dixons remain strong and united. During this softball season, Jordan created a video showing her shaving her head in support of her mother.
“I had the longest hair in the family,” said Jordan, who donated the hair.
It was a gesture that touched Jordan’s mother.
“It really tore me up,” Linda said. “I tried to talk her out of it. I’ve had a lot of people do it for me. I’ve had friends at work do it. My children did it. It amazes me.”
Jordan’s gesture might awe her mother, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is the daughter she raised – one who had to grow up in the shadow of a pair of bigger sisters who were softball stars, and a trio of brothers who arrived 10 months after her.
“We talk all the time about our currency being strong, confident women and I think it takes a strong, confident gal to shave her head and walk around campus and take the mound,” Stanton said. “For her to be able to show that solidarity and unity and love for her mom is something special. She’s here in Huntington, West Virginia, and her mom is back in Oklahoma fighting for her life.
“That bond is special. It should inspire everyone.”