LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Marshall softball team fell to Illinois in the 12th inning of game one of the Lexington NCAA Regional. The Herd is now 41-11 this season and Illinois is 38-18. Marshall will play DePaul in an elimination game Saturday at 2:30 p.m. from John Cropp Stadium.
It was a pitching and defensive battle throughout most of the contest. Senior Jordan Dixon and Illinois senior Breanna Wonderly combined for 343 pitches. There were 19 total hits through the 12 innings but 20 runners were left on base. Both defenses made plays all over the field.
Marshall got on the board first in the top of the third inning. Junior Eloise Tribolet reached on a two-out infield single then advanced to third with some great base running on an infield single by senior Morgan Zerkle. The Herd then went for the double steal as Tribolet crossed the plate before Zerkle was caught in a run-down between first and second.
Illinois tied the game in the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run from Annie Fleming. The Illini then took the lead in the fifth, taking advantage of two Marshall errors. However, the Herd defense held tight and made the plays to get out of the inning with just one run crossing the plate. Dixon struck out the last batter for the third out and stranded a runner at third.
The Herd evened the game at 2-2 in the top of the sixth. Zerkle ripped her 13th double of the season to the wall in left and then took third on a passed ball. Junior Elicia D’Orazio dropped down a bunt-single and then advanced to second as no Illinois defenders were covering the base. Junior Taylor McCord next put down a squeeze attempt that scored Zerkle. It was McCord’s 52nd RBI of the year. The Herd still had bases loaded as senior Shaelynn Braxton bunted her way on base, but Illinois closed out the inning with a strikeout.
The two teams continued to battle on in to extra innings. In the top of the eighth, Zerkle got on base and then stole second and third but Marshall could not get the hit to bring her home.
In the bottom of the eighth, Illinois put the leadoff batter on first but it was not for long as McCord picked off the runner. It was McCord’s ninth pick off of the year and the second runner she threw out in the game. The junior catcher caught Kiana Sherlund stealing in the first inning.
Both teams had opportunities as seven runners were left on base from the eighth through the 11th inning. In the bottom of the 12th, Illinois had two runners on with one out when Nicole Evans blooped a single in to center field that allowed the winning run to come in.
Head Coach Shonda Stanton
“What else could you want as a fan? That was an exciting game. The margin of error that we talk about all the time with our team is very small. But the feeling is so great. You have to give credit to them, they made a few more plays then we did. I felt that Dixon was a warrior out there. I felt our defense was exceptional. I felt that we had our chances and our opportunities. We got to third and we froze a little bit and didn’t stay with our identity and take the next 60 feet.”
“We had some chances to try and steal the game early and I feel for our student athletes because you want them to shine and we just let that one slip away.”
“I will say through 12 innings our pitcher was strong. I liked what I was seeing there and I liked what I saw out of our defense. Offensively we were bad and typically, if you have two of the three you are going to win a ball game. I felt that we had good pitching and good defense until a few moments, but offensively our whole identity is to want the next 60 feet. Get to third base and then you can score any number of ways. For some reason we got a little tight over there. They have to trust their abilities and trust me as a coach. If I get you hosed at the plate, that is on me. I felt that we didn’t attack and take what we want.”
Marshall was scheduled to take on the DePaul Blue Demons in an elimination game on Saturday.