TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Marshall softball team begins its 2017 journey in Tallahassee, Fla., at the Unconquered Invitational hosted by Florida State.
Other schools participating in the opening weekend tournament are the Lipscomb Bison and the Furman Paladins.
The Herd will take the field first against Lipscomb on Friday, Feb. 10 at 11 a.m., and then against Furman at 6:30 p.m. Marshall will then take on No. 3/4 Florida State on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m.
Following that game, tournament play will begin as seeds one and four will play at 4 p.m. and then seeds two and three will take the field at 6:30 p.m. On Sunday, the consolation game will start the day at 10 a.m. followed by the championship game scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
The Seminoles were ACC Champions in 2016, swept through Regionals and Super Regionals, and then went 2-2 in the Women’s College World Series. FSU returns the ACC Pitcher of the Year in Jessica Burroughs and the ACC Player of the Year in Alex Powers. Both are on the USA Softball Top 50 Watch List and are joined by teammate Jessica Warren.
Preseason All-Conference Selections
Marshall was selected to finish third in the Conference USA preseason polls. Along with the third place spot, the Herd had four players named Preseason All-Conference. Seniors Morgan Zerkle, Jordan Dixon and Shaelynn Braxton were joined by junior Taylor McCord. On top of that Zerkle was named the Preseason Player of the Year.
Zerkle’s Honors Keep Piling Up – USA Selections
By the time the 2016-17 season opened in the fall, Morgan Zerkle had racked up nine more honors. The 2017 season has not even started and already the accolades continue to roll in. Along with the preseason Conference USA selections; the highest achievement, being named to the 2017 USA Softball Women’s National Team.
Zerkle impressed while participating in the World Cup of Softball XI in Oklahoma City over the summer and showed during the selection camp at the beginning of January that she belonged with the best of the best. After her incredible performance at the camp, Zerkle was named to the Top 50 Watch List for the USA Softball Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. In 2016, Zerkle made it to the list of 25 Finalists for the Collegiate Player of the Year.
Grand Larceny on the Bases
Marshall softball has continued its dominance in base running going for the next 60 feet. The Herd finished in the Top 10 in the country in stolen bases per game for the 10th time under head coach Shonda Stanton since 2000.
That is the most in the country during that span. Marshall seized a school record 154 bases (2.75 per game) in 2016. Senior Kaelynn Greene led the team with 51 including a single game record five against Toledo.
Greene had a stretch of 19 games where she piled up 29 (1.53 per game) and six straight games with at least two steals. Sophomore Elicia D’Orazio was second on the team with 39 and recorded 21 thefts over a 17-game stretch. Morgan Zerkle finished third on the team with 28 after missing 22 games due to an ankle injury. Zerkle had 20 steals over the first 20 games and still grabbed eight after coming back from the injury. Rounding out players in double-figures, freshman Abigail Estrada swiped 10 bases.
A Record Breaking Senior Class
Marshall’s senior group of Morgan Zerkle, Jordan Dixon and Shaelynn Braxton are set to have their names throughout the Herd record book and possibly at the top of many offensive and pitching categories.
Zerkle already owns several single season marks, but she is closing in on career marks for hits, runs scored, triples and stolen bases. Braxton is already the Herd’s all-time leader in sacrifice flies but has very rapidly climber the charts in RBIs, home runs and slugging percentage. Dixon is Marshall’s all-time leader in career wins and strikeouts. She has the opportunity to be the Herd’s first 100-win and 1,000-strikeout pitcher. With her first appearance this season, she will move into first place for the most appearances. Dixon is also rising up in shutouts, complete games and innings pitched.
In addition to those three seniors, the Herd added Chloe Parsemain from the Marshall Swimming and Diving team. Parsemain has set a few records in the pool this year for the Herd and will join the softball team when the swimming season ends. The Herd swim team still has the Conference USA Championship (Feb. 22-25) coming up.
Althought there are only four seniors in the Class of 2017, it is one that will have a major impact on the Herd’s performance as well as an enormous shake-up in the Herd record books.
Head coach Shonda Stanton became Marshall’s all-time winningest coach in 2016 as she has compiled 518 wins for the Herd since taking over in 1999-2000. Stanton recorded her 500th win as a member of the Herd on March 13 at home against the UTEP Miners. She has 545 wins overall after recording 27 wins in one season at IUPUI in 1999.
In her 17 seasons, Stanton has established a culture of winning and family on and off the field. Along with the wins and the many on the field accolades, Marshall has recorded a team GPA of at least 3.0 or higher for 35 straight semesters. That is every semester that coach Stanton has been leading Marshall. Now in 2017, the Herd and coach Stanton look to add to its postseason successes with a very strong team and strong leadership.
In memory of former Herd great Emileigh Cooper, the Marshall softball staff established the Warrior Award that each year will be given out to the player that best personifies the qualities that Cooper established as a member of the Herd from 2012-15. As a senior in 2015, players were told to pick one word that would be significant and have meaning to the them. Cooper chose “Warrior” and set out to be the fire that flamed the Herd and Conference USA.
At home against WKU on March 13, 2015, the Herd and Hilltoppers were locked in a scoreless battle that went into the 10th inning. Cooper came up to the plate, after Rebecca Myslenski was walked, and got to see one pitch before the game was called because of rain.
The teams came back the following morning and picked up right from there. As Cooper prepared to go to the plate, she looked at freshman Elicia D’Orazio who was batting behind her and warming up and said “Don’t worry about getting ready. I’m going to end this now.” Cooper saw two more pitches before blasting a home run off 2015 C-USA Pitcher of the Year Miranda Kramer for the walk-off win.
The recipient of the very first Warrior Award went to Rebecca Myslenski, the player on first base for Cooper’s walk-off. Myslenski over her three-plus seasons with Marshall has been a perfect example of what the Warrior Award stands for. The Seabrook, Texas, native fought through injuries in her freshman year and battled through more to stay on the field as a sophomore first baseman.
Myslenski smacked a double in the fifth inning against UAB in the conference tournament in what proved to be her final game. An excellent infielder, Myslenski was medically disqualified because of her knee, but chose to stay on with the Herd as a student assistant. Myslenski continues to be an excellent member of the Marshall family in what is now her senior year.
For all of the latest information about Marshall softball, follow @HerdSB on Twitter and Marshall University Softball on Facebook.