HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The Marshall softball team came through with the late-game magic on Emileigh Cooper Day, defeating Louisiana Tech, 7-6, in the bottom of the seventh Saturday afternoon at Dot Hicks Field. Junior Blakely Burch won it for Marshall with a bases loaded, walk-off double that also gave the Herd the series win.
The Thundering Herd improved to 28-16 overall and 11-7 in Conference USA. The Lady Techsters fall to 36-12 overall and 14-4 in conference play.
"What an exciting way to end the day," Herd head coach Megan Smith said. "The day was to honor Emileigh Cooper and her warrior mentality and the way that she approached the game, and I think our players made her proud today. We played with the type of guts and grit that she had and that's what we talked about before the game. Let's make her proud and take that warrior mentality and put it out on the field today. And I think we did that.
"I feel like every single player, played with a lot of guts and grit and that was a fun win."
Senior Hayden Ellis was awarded the 2019 Warrior Award during a pregame ceremony with Cooper's family in attendance. Cooper's father Butch and mother Jody were on the field to present the award and then Jody threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Ellis joins Rebecca Myslenski (2017) and Madi Marshall (2018) as the recipients of the award.
The game started off as another pitching and defensive battle as neither team got on the board until Marshall scored four in the bottom of the fourth. Sophomore Aly Harrell got everything going with a one-out double to left-center. Freshman Mya Stevenson followed up with a walk and then Burch loaded the bases with her 16th hit-by-pitch of the year. Junior Sierra Huerta drove in the first run with a single into center that also kept the bases loaded. Ellis then drove in Stevenson with a walk. Senior Briana Daiss stepped up next with a pinch hit and reached on an infield single that also resulted in an error from the pitcher that allowed two runs to score.
LA Tech immediately responded with four runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game. Senior Abigail Tolbert had the start in the circle for Marshall and pitched into the fifth before senior Ali Burdette came on in relief.
The Lady Techsters scored another run in the top of the sixth. Burdette was relieved after back-to-back walks to start the inning. Junior Kailee Williamson entered the circle for Marshall and was able to get the Herd out of the inning trailing by one.
Louisiana Tech added its sixth and final run in the top of the seventh as Jazlyn Crowder hit a solo homer to begin the inning. Williamson and the Herd defense responded by retiring the next three batters.
Senior Hannah Giamamarino led off the bottom of the seventh for the Herd and provided an immediate spark of energy. With a 2-1 count, Giammarino smashed a shot to straight-away center for her sixth home run of the year, and cut the deficit to one, 6-5. Sophomore Rachel Rousseau then came to the plate and continued her clutch hitting with a double down the left field line. Sophomore Armani Brown grounded out to third for the first out but Rousseau took third on the throw to first.
With Rousseau standing 60 feet away from tying the game, Louisiana Tech decided to intentionally walk Harrell. It was Harrell's second walk of the game and 48th of the year. After a pitching change, Stevenson then drew a walk to load the bases. Coach Smith then sent in senior Samantha Loose to run for Harrell at second, representing the game-winning run. Burch then came to the plate and with a 2-1 count, drilled a shot all the way to the fence in right. Rousseau scored easily and Loose followed in to give the Herd the victory.
Williamson earned the win for Marshall and improved to 9-3 for the year. The Herd recorded eight hits in the contest and was walked five times as well. Huerta had two hits for Marshall including a double.
Marshall stays at home for a mid-week, non-conference game against the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday, April 23. The single game is set for a 3 p.m. first pitch at Dot Hicks Field.