Rousseau, Herd blast past WKU

April 8, 2019

HUNTINGTON — For nearly two months, Marshall University outfielder Rachel Rousseau envisioned getting back on the field and being a major contributor for the Thundering Herd softball team.

Not even Rousseau could have scripted this great of a return, however.

Rousseau’s eighth-inning home run blast Sunday capped Marshall’s 8-7 win over Western Kentucky University that gave the Herd a series win over Conference USA’s leading team.

“After the first foul ball that I drove down the left-field line, I was hoping she threw that pitch again because I was on it,” Rousseau said of the home run. “She kept coming at me and she’s a great pitcher, but I was on her. As soon as I hit it, I yelled ‘Get over’ and it just kept going. It was so relieving.”

It was the second homer in as many days for Rousseau, who had missed 30 games since opening weekend after suffering a boxer’s fracture (broken pinky knuckle) on her left hand.

Rousseau played a heavy part in both of Marshall’s weekend wins over Western Kentucky, notching a grand slam homer in her first game back to lift Marshall to a 10-2 win in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader before going 3-for-5 with the walk-off homer Sunday that gave the Herd a needed series win over Western Kentucky, who came into the weekend undefeated in C-USA action.

For Rousseau, it was vindication for what she described as a trying time in her softball career.

“Especially playing the first weekend and then, you’re just not allowed to do anything,” Rousseau said. “You aren’t even allowed to touch a ball or pick up your glove. The first time I picked up my glove was this past week. Mentally, it was harder to watch than anything. You’re doing all you can to help your teammates, but I just wanted to be a part of it.”

Rousseau’s blast ended what had been a wild day of Sunday softball at Dot Hicks Field.

Western Kentucky rallied to tie the game 7-7 in the top of the seventh inning, but Marshall pitcher Kailee Williamson took back momentum when she escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam by inducing a fielder’s choice and a strikeout to end the Hilltoppers’ threat of taking the lead.

“Through a little adversity, too,” Marshall coach Megan Smith said. “She had some misplays and some things that didn’t rattle her and I’m proud of her for sticking in there and gutting it out.”

In the inning prior, Marshall (25-13, 8-4 C-USA) took the lead when Blakely Burch uncorked a three-run blast that came after a pair of Western Kentucky errors to start the bottom of the sixth.

Burch fell behind 0-2 and worked the count full before sending a pitch from WKU’s Kelsey Aikey over the center field wall to give the Herd a brief 7-6 lead.

Rousseau and Burch did much of the offensive damage for Marshall, accounting for five of the team’s eight hits at the top of the lineup.

The game was back and forth with ties and lead changes abound, and Smith said mental toughness won the day.

“Coming into the weekend, that team is the best in our conference,” Smith said. “We knew we would have a fight on our hands and we out-fought them. That’s what we did today. We just out-fought them, so I’m really proud of our team.”

Kendall Smith finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs for Western Kentucky (27-8, 10-2 C-USA) while Rebekah Engelhardt also had two hits and two RBIs.

Marshall is now alone in second place in the C-USA East Division, just two games back of the Hilltoppers. Marshall returns to action at 4 p.m. Saturday when they start a double-header with FIU in Miami.