Friday, February 27, 2015

Final Weekend of Non-Conference Play for Herd Softball

Marshall Softball has raced out to an 11-3 record to start this season and could have easily been 13-1 with a couple breaks against Towson and Auburn. So before we wrap up the final weekend of non-conference play, I give you a tidbits to hold you over until first pitch with Tennessee State later on today.

Give It Your Best Effort

Through its first 14 games, the Herd is out to the best start in school history. Marshall's best start was 10-3 during the 2010 season. Marshall's 10-1 start was also the best one-loss start in school history since the 8-1 start by the 1996 squad.

Catch Me If You Can

When a Marshall base runner gets on base, look fast or you may miss them. The Herd has swiped 52 stolen bases in 64 attempts this season including sophomore Morgan Zerkle with a team-leading 20. The 52 swipes lead Conference USA by 18 over Florida Atlantic. To put in perspective the dominance the Herd is having on the base paths, the top three spots in the category belongs to the Herd. Zerkle (21) lead the league followed by freshman Elicia D'Orazio (9) and junior Kaelynn Greene (8) rounding out the top three.

The Power Of Z

There is no secret that Marshall goes as Zerkle goes. Its no secret the Preseason All-Conference Team member is a terror on the base paths, but what she brings to the plate is what separates her from the rest. While she leads CUSA in hits (29), the manner those hits have been collected are as different as white and black. A slapper by trade, Zerkle has orchestrated several perfectly placed bunts that left the defense shaking its head as the speedster crosses first base. But Zerkle offers another weapon at the plate that many slappers don't consistently do, she can drive the ball into the gaps and run for days. Zerkle owns one of four Marshall home runs this season but its the only one that did not fly over the fence. Instead, it just flew over the outfielders head and rolled to the wall in center field. When Zerkle paces this team at the top, Marshall is a tough out top to bottom.

Marshall Tamed The Tigers

Flip the calendar back one year to Marshall vs Auburn and the results from the 19-5 five-inning loss to the Tigers may shock you. Especially considering the Herd nearly knocked off the No. 14 ranked Tigers last week in Tampa before falling 5-4. The difference in the two contests, defense. Marshall had as many errors (7) in that contest as it did hits while giving up a season high 19 runs. Although the Tigers picked up their loss to Dartmouth prior to playing the Herd, Marshall pushed in the seven-inning contest with a chance to tie or win in the bottom frame only to come up short. While a win would have been huge for the Herd, the ability to erase a 5-1 deficit after three innings speaks volumes about this team's character.

A Quick Peak At The Carolina Classic

Marshall has a great opportunity to not only continue to build on its hot start to the season before heading to Miami next weekend to begin conference play, but also send a message to the voters that this team is for real. Marshall has four games this weekend in the Classic with the final two being pivotal in sending its message. The Herd opens the event against Tennessee State Friday afternoon in what will be only the fifth meeting of the schools. The Tigers earned their only win over the Herd in that 2009 meeting with a 9-8 eighth-inning walk-off walk.

Saturday afternoon brings the Herd's lone double-header of the weekend with games against Charleston Southern and host South Carolina. Marshall last faced Charleston Southern in 2012 which resulted in the Buc's only win over the Herd in six attempts. The Herd fell 3-2 in eight innings in that contest. The Buc's head coach Shane Winkler served as an assistant for the Herd from 2006-08. His club enters the event 9-4 after splitting with Tennessee Tech last time out.

The second game of the twin bill pits Marshall and South Carolina in only the second meeting between the programs. The Herd bettered the Gamecocks in the 1995 with an 8-5 win. The Gamecocks enter the event 12-4 fresh off a 3-1 win over Western Carolina Thursday night in a game that pitchers Julie Sarratt and Nickie Blue combined to one-hit the Catamounts. South Carolina has yet to lose at home this season.

In the final day of the event for the Herd, Sunday morning brings another ranked opponent in No. 24 South Alabama. The Jaguars enter the event 11-3 and own a win in the only meeting between the teams after knocking off the Herd 1-0 last season in Boca Raton. The Jags have won their last three games.

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