LA Tech defeats Herd 3-1 in C-USA softball title game
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Marshall University’s softball team didn’t make many mistakes Saturday, but the Thundering Herd made enough to open the door for Louisiana Tech University.
That was all the Lady Techsters needed as they took advantage of a pair of costly Herd mistakes to defeat Marshall, 3-1, in the Conference USA Championship at Mary Bowers Field.
Louisiana Tech (44-14) earned the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Regionals. Pairings will be announced Sunday during the NCAA Selection Show.
For Marshall (39-20), head coach Megan Smith’s first year at the helm likely comes to a close, but not without plenty of success. Smith led the team to 14 more wins in her first year than the team had last season, and she did so with a roster of talent that will largely return for the 2020 season.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Smith said in a HerdZone.com release. “I have been so proud of them all week here at the conference tournament. Abbie Tolbert pitched really well today, but unfortunately our bats didn’t get it done. I told the girls we’re not going to let one game affect our feelings on this season. We had a great
season and I am proud of everyone on the team.
“We showed a lot of offensive power breaking the (team) home run record (with 75), our pitchers did extremely well, our defense improved and I just couldn’t be any prouder to be the coach of these 20 young women.
“I told the team that I have coached at the college level for 20 years and this was the most fun I have ever had. They are a great group of girls. Great people who have high character and they fight for each other and they fight for Marshall, and that’s all we can ask of them.”
While the Herd has plenty to look forward to, this particular day belonged to Louisiana Tech.
The key stretch came in the fourth inning as momentum flipped twice.
Louisiana Tech grabbed a lead, but Marshall got back into the contest when Mya Stevenson homered over the left-field fence to cut the Herd’s deficit in half.
The energy was on Marshall’s side following the home run, but the Lady Techsters grabbed it right back when Bayli Simon hustled home on a passed ball that restored the two-run cushion.
Mentally, the difference between a one-run and two-run game was huge in this one as Louisiana Tech’s pitching staff kept the Herd off balance.
Led by Krystal De La Cruz, the pitchers for the Lady Techsters allowed just three hits — one being Stevenson’s home run — while keeping Marshall’s bats silent. The lone other player for Marshall to record a hit was catcher Hayden Ellis, who finished 2 for 3.
Louisiana Tech jumped out to a 2-0 lead after a misplayed ball in the outfield went down as an RBI triple for Morgan Turkoly, who scored one batter later on a suicide squeeze by Jazlyn Crowder.
Crowder turned in the game’s biggest defensive play in the fifth inning, which kept the Herd from tying the game up.
After an Ellis double to lead off the inning, Smith elected to bring in pinch-hitter Briana Daiss in an effort to get something going. Daiss nearly tied the game, sending the first offering she received from reliever Preslee Gallaway to deep center field. Crowder got a good read on the ball and made a catch at the wall to rob Daiss of a game-tying home run.
Tolbert took the loss in the circle for the Herd, going six innings and allowing three runs on six hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Crowder and Turkoly registered two hits each against Tolbert for Louisiana Tech, whose championship comes just 16 days after a tornado destroyed the team’s softball field. On April 25, a tornado ripped through Ruston, Louisiana, killing two people and destroying several university athletic facilities while causing millions in damage in the town.
Tolbert, Harrell and Stevenson were named to the all-tournament team.