Harrell’s homer puts Herd softball in C-USA championship game
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — North Texas is likely wishing it issued one more free pass to Marshall University slugger Aly Harrell.
Marshall defeated top-seeded North Texas 1-0 in Friday’s semifinal round of the Conference USA softball tournament at Mary Bowers Field on Harrell’s solo home run in the sixth inning.
The fourth-seeded Thundering Herd (39-19) plays at 11 a.m. Saturday against second-seeded Louisiana Tech (43-14) for the C-USA Tournament championship and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. The game was moved to morning because of possible inclement weather.
Harrell walked twice in four plate appearances, bringing her league-leading season total to 63. The sophomore first baseman’s 14th homer this season raised her career number to 25.
LA Tech won Marshall’s first game of the day, 5-4. Jax Crowder smacked a two-run homer for LA Tech in the first inning and the Lady Techsters built a 5-0 lead after three innings. Marshall senior pitcher Abigail Tolbert, from Barboursville, was pulled after the first inning and Kailee Williamson finished the game.
Marshall chipped away at the deficit with an RBI double by Rachel Rousseau in the fourth inning and Armani Brown’s base hit in the fifth inning.
The Thundering Herd made it interesting in the top of the seventh inning when Brown reached base on an error and Mya Stevenson crushed her league-leading 17th homer to get within 5-4, but LA Tech held on and advanced to the championship game.
“Obviously I am extremely proud of our team and our fight today,” Marshall coach Megan Smith said in a HerdZone.com release. “Even in the first game, even though we lost, I feel like we kept fighting and had some momentum going into the second game.
“The game against North Texas - I mean, what a game. Both teams played really well. For Tolbert to go out there a second time and shut them down and only give up three hits, that was one of the best pitching performances I’ve seen in a long time. She was dominant, confident and our team fed off of it and we made great plays behind her. Then Aly Harrell came up big.
“It was a great day, a great game and we are excited to have another crack at Louisiana Tech tomorrow for the championship.”
Tolbert (26-15) tossed a complete game three-hitter against North Texas. It was her 24th complete game of the season and 10th shutout.
Harrell’s sixth-inning homer over the fence in left field provided Tolbert a cushion and she retired the Mean Green in order in the bottom of the inning.
Marshall threatened in the top of the seventh inning, loading the bases when Abigail Estrada singled before Harrell and Stevenson walked, but North Texas got out of the jam. North Texas advanced a runner to third base in the bottom of the seventh, but with two outs, Tolbert induced a groundout that ended the game.
C-USA softball championship: Marshall vs. Louisiana Tech
11 a.m. Saturday, Mary Bowers Field, Birmingham, Ala.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: WMUL 88.1-FM