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Softball legend inspires Herd before season

Marshall%27s+2018+softball+team+poses+for+a+photo+with+three-time+National+Pro+Fastpitch+Most+Valuable+Player+Kelly+Kretschman+at+the+Herd%27s+annual+Diamond+Club+banquet.
Marshall's 2018 softball team poses for a photo with three-time National Pro Fastpitch Most Valuable Player Kelly Kretschman at the Herd's annual Diamond Club banquet.

Marshall's 2018 softball team poses for a photo with three-time National Pro Fastpitch Most Valuable Player Kelly Kretschman at the Herd's annual Diamond Club banquet.

Luke Creasy

Luke Creasy

Marshall's 2018 softball team poses for a photo with three-time National Pro Fastpitch Most Valuable Player Kelly Kretschman at the Herd's annual Diamond Club banquet.

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Marshall University softball celebrated its 25th year as a program at its 7th Annual Diamond Club Banquet Friday, while also introducing new players and staff.

Those in attendance were introduced to 10 newcomers to the team, nine freshmen and one transfer, as well as a new coaching staff after
former head coach Shonda Stanton took the same position at Indiana University after 18 years with the Thundering Herd.

Marshall senior infielder Elicia D’Orazio said that change has long been a part of her athletic career, and this upcoming season is no different.

“Personally, change is always something I’ve had to go through,” D’Orazio said. “I went to four different high schools, so I got that change every year. It’s really cool to be at a university for four years and learn from eight different personalities. We had three coaches (last year) and five coaches this year. They have totally different teaching methods, so it’s definitely benefitted us.”

First-year head coach Jen Steele brought in a softball legend as the event’s keynote speaker, three-time reigning National Pro Fastpitch Most Valuable Player Kelly Kretschman.

Kretschman is one of the most decorated athletes to ever play the game. She guided Team USA Softball to an Olympic gold medal in the 2004 games in Athens, Greece, followed by Olympic silver in the 2008 Beijing games, among a handful of other career accomplishments in her 13 years in the NPF.

She spoke to both the team and the community while addressing the turnover the program experienced in the offseason.

“There’s a different coaching staff, so what?” Kretschman said in a speech given at the banquet. “You guys, as players, have established a culture here. As a community, you’ve established your own culture. You know what success looks like. You have the blueprint for it. I know what Marshall softball looks like from the outside. It’s a player that is going to bust her butt every single play. That’s what makes you Marshall softball.”

Kretschman was able to spend time with the team before and after the banquet, as she attended Sunday practice. D’Orazio said it was a surreal experience.

“She’s a really inspirational person, someone that I grew up watching play,” D’Orazio said. “Just getting to be in the same room with her is cool.”

Steele said she thinks Kretschman’s wisdom will ease some start-of-season jitters as the team prepares for No. 13 Auburn this Thursday.

“She’s had a really long career, and she’s learned a lot throughout that career,” Steele said. “I’m hoping that our athletes can pick up on some of that wisdom, because I think they put a lot of pressure on themselves to be great in four years, but the game is hard. It takes a long time to get good at it, so hopefully they can relax a little bit and see her progression throughout the years. We’re thankful to have her here.”

The offseason is complete for Marshall softball as it’s officially game week. The Herd will attempt to build on last year’s best season in program history as it opens the 25th season Thursday at the Auburn Plainsman Invitational.

Luke Creasy can be contacted at [email protected]

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