Herd softball wins in extra innings

Published: Apr. 3, 2022 at 11:50 AM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall softball senior Grace Chelemen hit a walkoff single in the bottom of the eighth inning to finish off an incredible comeback as the Herd defeated the Charlotte 49ers, 11-10, on Saturday. The walkoff was the 19th hit of the game for Marshall, tying a program record.

The Thundering Herd improved to 21-9 overall and 5-3 in Conference USA play. The 49ers fall to 22-13 and 4-7 in league action. Game three is set for Sunday at 12 p.m.

Along with combining for 21 runs, Marshall and Charlotte piled up 30 hits and 337 total pitches in an exciting game that lasted two hours and 49 minutes. The 19 hits by the Herd tied the mark set back on April 9, 2014, at Northern Kentucky which also happened to be the same game that the program record of five home runs was first set.

Marshall softball had a trio come out to throw the ceremonial first pitch with the ladies of The Big Green Scholarship Foundation as Tassey Holley, Taylor Hickman and Emily Suter did the honors.

The shootout got started right from the beginning as Charlotte scored three runs in the top of the first. Redshirt junior Cailey Joyce had the start in the circle for Marshall and was pulled after two outs in the first. Junior Ashley Blessin came in and finished the first with a strikeout. Marshall then pulled the first part of its comeback in the bottom of the first scoring four runs to take a brief lead.

Fifth-year senior Aly Harrell got it started with a solo home run. It was her fifth of the season and 45th of her career. Chelemen came up next and ripped her first triple of the year to right-center. Two batters later, senior Mya Stevenson drove in Chelemen with a single to left. Sophomore Autumn Owen reached next with a base hit to right. Charlotte made a pitching change after Owen’s single and brought in Madelyn Wright who pitched the rest of the way. Two batters after the change in the circle, and with two outs, fifth-year senior Katie Adams drove in both Stevenson and Owen to give the Herd a 4-3 lead.

Both teams were shutout in the second inning. In the top of the third, Charlotte took what appeared to be a commanding lead scoring five runs to go up 8-4. Sophomore Brianna McCown came on in relief of Blessin the third and finished the inning.

The Herd scored one more run in the bottom of the third. Freshman Lauren Love plated Owen with a single to right. Marshall had two on base but could not find the timely hit and went into the fourth trailing 8-5.

Charlotte added one more run in the top of the fourth to push the lead back to four, 9-5. Freshman Bub Feringa entered the circle in the fourth and retired the first batter she faced that stranded three runners on base.

Feringa and the Marshall defense retired the 49ers in order in the top of the fifth in just 11 pitches.

In the bottom of the fifth, still trailing by four, Owen sparked life back into the offense with a solo bomb out to center. It was her third of the season and 24th of her career. The Herd then loaded the bases with Adams, Love with a double and then freshman Rielly Lucas with a pinch hit walk. Harrell came up to the plate and was walked on the seventh pitch to drive in Adams to bring Marshall to within two, 9-7. Charlotte recorded the final out to get out of the inning and keep the two-run lead.

In the top of the sixth, the 49ers were threatening again with two runners on base, one out and then a single to right. Charlotte got aggressive and started to send the lead runner home. Stevenson made a great throw to Adams at home that halted the runner who then ended up in a run-down. After a few tosses back-and-forth, fifth-year senior shortstop Armani Brown tagged the runner and then turned her attention to the next runner caught between second and third. Brown tossed to fifth-year senior Madison Whitaker who then threw back to Brown who tagged the runner for the third out of the inning.

With the great crowd that was in attendance getting livelier, Stevenson electrified them even more with a solo home run in the in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to one, 9-8.

Feringa rolled through the Charlotte batters with another 3-up, 3-down inning in the top of the seventh. She ended the frame with her lone strikeout of the game.

After the leadoff out was recorded in the bottom of the seventh, Love delivered a single to right to get things started, as then freshman Alex Coleman came in to run at first. Feringa then came to the plate and recorded a base hit to left on the first pitch, moving Coleman to second. A wild pitch with Harrell at the plate moved both Coleman and Feringa into scoring position. Harrell was then walked to load the bases. Chelemen came up and hit the first pitch with a floater that landed just out of the reach of the diving shortstop behind third base. Coleman scored and each runner was safe. The game was tied at 9-9. Wright and the Charlotte defense retired the next two batters to keep the game tied and send it to the eighth inning.

Redshirt junior Sydney Nester came out to pitch in the eighth. The 49ers plated one more run to take back the lead, 10-9, and had the bases loaded with one out. Nester settled back in and struck out the next two batters, stranding three runners on base, and keeping Marshall with a one-run deficit.

The heart and fight of the Herd kept right on rolling in the eighth. Owen led off with a single to center. Whitaker moved Owen to second with a sacrifice bunt and then Adams flew out to deep center that allowed Owen to tag up and take third. With the game-tying run standing 60 feet away, Love drew a walk on a full-count to put the now game-winning run on base, and with two outs. Sophomore Kay Kay Kenney came to the plate for her first at bat of the game and singled to the right side that allowed Owen to come home, and Love advanced to third. Charlotte walked Harrell on four-straight pitches again to load the bases and get to Chelemen.

The Woodhaven, Michigan, native went after the first pitch and dropped a base hit into center, scoring Love from the third for the walkoff.

Marshall came back from a three-run deficit in the first, a four-run deficit to tie the game, and then trailed by one in the eighth to finally win the game.

Nester earned the win, her 14th of the season, and struck out three batters. Feringa had a great outing in the circle pitching 3.1 innings, allowed just one hit and three total base runners.

It was the Herd’s first walkoff since Harrell had the game-winner with a double against Florida Atlantic on April 17, 2021, to win 8-7 in the ninth inning.

Four players for the Herd recorded three hits coming from Chelemen, Stevenson, Owen and Love. The four also combined for eight runs scored and six RBI. Chelemen scored once and had two RBI, both coming at big moments. Her first RBI tied the game in the seventh and the second won the contest. Stevenson had two RBI and two runs. Stevenson is now tied with fifth-year senior Saige Pye for the team lead with 33 RBI this season.

Owen tied the team record with four runs scored. The last time a Marshall player scored four runs in a single game was Taylor McCord (2015-18) on April 29, 2017, at Middle Tennessee. Owen also had one RBI off the solo homer. Love had one run, one RBI and was walked twice as she reached base all five times.

Harrell was walked three times and had the solo home run in the first. It was the sixth time this season, and 41st of her career, that Marshall’s all-time walks leader was given the free pass to first at least twice in a game. Saturday was also the third time in league play that Harrell was walked three times as she did it twice against Middle Tennessee.

Whitaker and Adams both had two hits. Whitaker is batting .462 in league play (6-of-13). Adams scored one run and drove in two.

Kenney and Feringa had one hit each and Coleman scored a run to round out the Herd’s offense.

Along with the record-tying 19 hits, Marshall drew six walks.

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