Sports News Analysis: Herd Softball Looks Ahead After Season Cut Short Due to COVID-19

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Looking Back:

On Wednesday, March 11, the Marshall University Thundering Herd softball team traveled the just about two-hour trip to take on the No. 11 ranked University of Kentucky Wildcats, in what would be one of the Herd’s best games of the season—unfortunately also its last.

The back-and-forth affair saw a total of 27 hits and 31 runs scored, but saw the Wildcats ultimately take the win, 16-15. That game showed the Herd sitting at 18-6 could really play with tough opponents, especially with Conference USA action set to begin just days later.

The Herd finished the shortened season with an 18-7 record, 5-1 at home, 9-2 at neutral sites and 4-4 away. The Herd even ripped off a nine-game win streak and won 10 of its final 12 games.

This team, Team 27 as they like to be referred to, was doing some amazing things on the field, including fifth in the nation in battering average hitting a whopping .357 through 35 games as well as leading the nation in home runs per game; much of that had to do with sophomore slugger Mya Stevenson, who finished tied for first in the nation with 12 home runs.

This is a point where ‘what if’ moments come about, with last season the Herd having 42 wins. This year’s team had three more wins through the same date.

The Herd could have had redemption after falling short in the 2019 Conference USA Championship game 3-1 to Louisiana Tech, make it back to the NCAA tournament, but unfortunately focus needs to now be shifted to the 2021 season.

Looking Forward:

While it is still up in the air which seniors the Herd will have back for another year, one player who will be back is infielder Blakely Burch, who unfortunately suffered a leg injury that in late February required surgery. The senior later posted on social media she was eager to get healthy and start training again after the NCAA had granted her a medical redshirt.

The players who were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA due to COVID-19 are pitcher Kailee Williamson, infielder Sierra Huerta and catcher Haleigh Christopher, who had transferred in from the University of Charleston prior to the season.

The other returners include pitchers Laney Jones, Megan Stauffer, Ashley Blessin, Delaney Heaberlin and slugger Mya Stevenson.

The infielders returning next season are Brooke Burns, Aly Harrell, Saige Pye, Armani Brown and Caiti Mathes. The Herd will also bring back two catchers: Katie Adams and Caitlin Myers.

And finally, the outfielder’s returning are Rachel Rousseau, Rachel Pennington, Chloe Lee, Grace Chelemen and Carson Lyon.

In November, the Herd signed four to their 2020-21 freshman class: Kat Sacket, Paige Halliwill, Mikaila “Kay Kay” Kenney and Amaya Lee, and made another addition in March with the signing of Brianna McCown.

Spencer DuPuis can be contacted at [email protected]