Herd mercies Morehead State

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 8:47 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – It took a little time for the bats to get rolling, but the Marshall softball team opened it up with eight runs in the fifth for the 9-1 victory over the Morehead State Eagles on Wednesday at Dot Hicks Field. Senior Mya Stevenson and sophomore Autumn Owen each had a home run.

The Thundering Herd improved to 29-11 overall while the Eagles fell to 5-28.

Marshall remains perfect at home this season, 18-0, and has now won 20-straight games at Dot Hicks Field going back to the 2021 season.

The game began as a pitching and defensive battle. Redshirt junior Sydney Nester got the start and pitched all five innings for her 23rd complete-game of the year. She allowed just two hits, one walk, one unearned run and struck out three.

Morehead State started the game with a base hit to center. However, the runner was quickly erased caught stealing, as fifth-year senior catcher Katie Adams made the throw to fellow fifth-year senior Madison Whitaker in time for the tag. The next two batters popped out to Whitaker at second.

Stevenson led off the bottom of the second with a big blast to left-center, bouncing off the railroad track for a solo home run. It was her 15th home run of the season and 55th of her career. Stevenson is now just three homers away from tying Marshall Hall of Famer Rachel Folden (2005-08) for the all-time home run record.

The Eagles tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth as Kirya Kingery slid across the plate off an infield error.

In the top of the fifth, Nester struck out the first two batters and then Whitaker tallied her third assist of the game for the 1-2-3 inning.

The bats finally got it rolling in the bottom of the fifth and turned it on. Morehead State retired the leadoff batter, and that ended up being the only out of the frame as 11 more batters came to the plate. Fifth-year senior Aly Harrell got it started with a walk, and then redshirt freshman Amaya Lee came in to run at first for Harrell. Senior Grace Chelemen hit the first pitch of her at bat for a single into center. Fifth-year senior Saige Pye battled through a long at bat to finally draw a walk on the tenth pitch. With the bases loaded, Stevenson ripped a shot down the right-field line that allowed Lee and Chelemen to score. The right-fielder booted the ball which then allowed Pye to take third and Stevenson to move to second. Marshall now led 3-1, and it was just the beginning.

Owen stepped up next, and on the seventh pitch of the at bat with a full count, belted a three-run home run to right that ricocheted off the hood of a car. It was Owen’s fifth home run of the season and 22nd of her collegiate career. With the bases cleared, the Herd led 6-1.

Adams kept it rolling as she reached on a hit-by-pitch that also brought on a pitching change for Morehead State. Lennon Spicer was pulled for Maya Morris and the first batter Morris faced was Whitaker who promptly got a base hit to left. Freshman Rielly Lucas came to the plate next to pinch hit for fifth-year senior Armani Brown. Lucas drew a walk to load the bases and Brown re-entered to run at first. It was the 10th walk of the year for Lucas.

Sophomore Kay Kay Kenney stepped up, pinch hitting for freshman Alex Coleman. Kenney grounded to third and it looked as if the Eagles would get the second out of the inning. However, the ball was dropped at the plate by the catcher after the throw home from third to attempt to get the force out. Adams slid in safely as each runner moved up the next 60 feet. Bases were still loaded and Marshall led 7-1.

Harrell came back up to the plate for the second time in the inning. And just like the bottom of the fifth on Saturday against FIU, Harrell was walked for the second time in the frame. It was career walk number 164 and the 161st RBI of her career as Whitaker crossed the plate. The game-ending run now stood at third base in Brown, just like on Saturday against the Panthers. However, this time Brown did not score the final run on a wild pitch. Instead Chelemen was walked on five pitches to send Brown home and end the game.

Marshall tallied eight hits, drew six walks and had one hit batter in the win. Whitaker had two hits and one walk, increasing her on base streak to now 17-straight games. Chelemen, Stevenson and Owen also had two hits each. Stevenson and Owen finished with three RBI each which was a season-high for Owen. Stevenson leads the Herd with 43 RBI and is fourth all-time in Marshall history with 158 in her amazing career.

Harrell drew two free passes for the fourth-straight game. It was the 45th contest of her tremendous career with at least two walks.

The Herd also inched closer to another team single-season record. Marshall had two doubles on Wednesday as Whitaker and Owen had one each. The Herd now has 77 doubles this season, just six away from tying the program record of 83 set in 2019, head coach Megan Smith Lyon’s first season. Marshall entered the day fourth in the nation in doubles per game (1.92) and fifth in total doubles.

The Herd gets back in action on the road with a three-game series at WKU, April 22-24. Both teams are tied at the top of the Conference USA East Division at 11-4. Game one of the series is set for Friday, April 22, with first pitch at 6 p.m. local time, 7 p.m. eastern.

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