Friday, February 27, 2015

RECAP: Kristina Braxton Big Day Paces the Herd to Win Number 12

COLUMBIA, S.C.-- Timely hits and clutch at-bats is something Marshall Softball head coach Shonda Stanton has been looking for this season from her squad. Friday afternoon versus Tennessee State she got both in a 9-1 five-inning run-rule win to open the Carolina Classic.

Dave Myslenski/Kristina Braxton slams a hit for the Herd.
Kristina Braxton led the Herd with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate which included two singles, a double, 2 RBI and scoring the game-clinching run in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Both teams traded lead-off opportunities to open the contest only to come up short after the first inning. While the Tigers struggled to find an answer to Jordan Dixon, Braxton gave the Herd a 1-0 lead after smashing a two-out double off the wall in left field to score Kaitlin Lucas.

Marshall added two more runs in the third after Kaelynn Greene single through the hole to left before moving up to second on a fielding error by the left fielder. Greene swiped her ninth bag in as many attempts to move to third. Elicia D'Orazio walked to put runners at the corners to set up Stanton's aggressive approach on the bases.

Greene plated the Herd's second run of the game after Taylor Green's pitch got away from Tigers' catcher Lindsey Burgess which also allowed D'Orazio to move to third after moving up to second on the pitch. Lucas earned her second free pass of the game on another hit-by-pitch and was able to keep herself in a run-down long enough to allow D'Orazio to score for a 3-0 Marshall lead.

Tennessee State threatened in the fourth after a one-out double by Lauren Dreitlein and a walk to Joselynn Yates placed two runners on with only one out. Dixon earned the second out of the inning on an infield fly to D'Orazio but nearly allowed the Tigers to climb back into the contest on one swing of the bat by Cariona Hassell.

The freshman ripped a drive into the gap in left-center field only to have the rally shot down on a great play from Greene to end the inning.

Marshall responded again in the fourth after a one-out walk by Taylor McCord followed by a RBI single by Braxton, allowing pinch runner Jordan Colliflower to score from first for a 4-0 lead.

With Braxton delivering the clutch hits for the Herd, all Stanton was waiting for was the big hit to blow the game open.

She did not have to wait long as freshman Kylie Howard blasted a two-run homer to deep center giving Marshall a 6-0 lead. It was Howard's first career home run for the Herd. Morgan Zerkle continue the attack with an infield single but appeared to be stranded once again at second before Marshall received a reprieve on a coaching error by the Tigers.
Dave Myslenski/Kylie Howard sends one deep for the Herd.

D'Orazio initially ended the inning after grounding out to the Yates at third base only to return to the plate for another swing after the umpires learned that Yates had not been officially re-entered into the contest giving the Herd another scoring opportunity.

Zerkle took third on a wild pitch and scored on a RBI infield single by D'Orazio and a 7-0 lead after four complete.

However, the Tigers would not go away quietly as their patience at the plate earned back-to-back walks to open the fifth and chased Dixon from the circle. Brittanie Fowler entered the game in relief as Danica Gleason welcomed her to the game with a single to center to load the bases with no outs.

But as the Herd has been able to do much of the time this season, the defense would come through when it was needed the most. Courtney Gearalds sent a sharp liner up the middle only to have D'Orazio snag it for the first out then spin and tag Tayler Shimizo at second for the Herd's eighth double play of the season. Kailey Richard pushed across the first run for the Tigers after ripping a ball down the line into the left field corner for what appeared to be a two-out 2RBI double. However, after a Marshall appeal, Gleason was ruled out for missing second base which negated her run and would end the inning.
Dave Myslenski/Elicia D'Orazio applies a tag vs Auburn.

Lucas would lead off the home fifth with a four-pitch walk then moved up to second on a fielder's choice by McCord for the second out of the inning. But the hot-hitting Braxton smacked a hot chopper of the glove of the shortstop Hassell into center field for her second RBI of the game and an 8-1 Herd lead setting up Howard at the play for a chance to win it.

Howard collected her second hit of the game as she sent a ball up the middle for a single that sent Braxton over to third. After an errant throw from the center fielder skipped away from the Tigers' third baseman, Braxton trotted to the plate for a 9-1 Marshall win.

With the win Marshall continues to add to its best start in program history now at 12-3 as it awaits Charleston Southern and host South Carolina tomorrow afternoon with first pitch scheduled at 12:30 p.m.

NOTES: Dixon took over sixth place all-time for strikeouts as the sophomore recorded six in the win today pushing her total to 363. Dixon is now three shy of tying Natasha Johnson for fifth place. Zerkle is now three hits shy of 100 as a member of the Herd after the sophomore finished 1-for-2 in the contest. She also moved into eighth overall for stolen bases after swiping her 69th in the win.

Saturday's game with Charleston Southern will be the seventh meeting between the programs with the Buc's stealing a 3-2 win in eight innings in 2012. Marshall and South Carolina have met only once with the Herd knocking off the Gamecocks 8-5 in 1995.

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