HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Looking to ride Wednesday’s double-upset momentum into
Thursday’s Conference USA Tournament matchup with top-seeded Marshall, the
Hilltoppers hung tough but gave up an earned run before falling 2-0 to the No. 23
Thundering Herd. Now in the double-elimination format, WKU Softball will take on No.
3-seeded Louisiana Tech on Friday at a time still to be announced.
“Playing 21 innings yesterday, we gave a lot to those games so I felt like we just
didn’t have that burst of energy that we needed to knock off the No. 1 team in the
conference,” head coach Amy Tudor shared. “I thought we pitched it really well; only
one earned run against the 23rd-ranked team in the nation. I was really proud of
Downing and Aikey for the way they performed today. We just couldn’t figure out
Dixon today, offensively.”
WKU moved to 29-28 on the 2017 season with the setback while Marshall climbed to
41-8 on the year. The Thundering Herd’s pitcher, Jordan Dixon (31-6) tossed her
third-career no-hitter in the game. Thursday’s loss marked the first time in 2017
the Hilltoppers had been no-hit on the season.
After going down in order in the opening frame, Kathryn Downing took to the circle
to get to work. The senior sent the Marshall batters back to the dugout in order
after the Thundering Herd worked a lead-off walk. Downing registered her first
strike out on the day to get WKU back to the dugout in the frame.
Back in the circle in the bottom of the second, Downing picked up where she left
off, notching two more consecutive strike outs to bring her day’s total to three.
With the next two Marshall batters reaching base, including the Herd’s first hit of
the day, Downing handled a comebacker and tossed to Adarian Gray at first base to
get the Red and White back to the dugout.
Marshall broke the scoreless tie on the first pitch of the third inning with a solo
home run to center field. The next Marshall batter beat out an infield single but
Downing buckled down and got help from her defense with the next three batters going
down on fly outs.
Downing returned to the circle for the bottom of the fourth but was relieved by
Kelsey Aikey after the Thundering Herd knocked a full-count double to open the
inning. Aikey got to work and induced a double play against her first batter as
Rebekah Engelhardt gloved a liner and fired to Morgan McElroy at second base to
double up the Marshall base runner. Aikey found her groove and sent the final
Marshall batter of the frame back to the dugout as she registered her first strike
out of the game.
In the bottom of the fifth, Marshall led off with a single and a stolen base moved
the runner into scoring position, but Aikey responded with her second swinging
strike out of the day for the first out. After a walk to put a force on third,
Taylor Proctor fired down to Engelhardt to catch her 17th base runner stealing of
the season. Marshall went on to double its lead on a Hilltopper fielding error in
the outfield before McElroy handled a grounder for the third out of the inning.
Proctor would go on to lead off the top of the next frame by taking her
single-season school record 25th hit by pitch of the season. The senior catcher
moved to second base on a passed ball. Proctor now owns 44 career free bases from
getting hit in two seasons, which ranks second in the WKU career books.
Marshall opened the bottom of the sixth inning by moving a runner to third base as
WKU recorded the first out in the frame. However, Aikey induced a fly out to McElroy
followed by one to Kelsey McGuffin in centerfield to strand the runner on third.
Despite the trio of Hilltopper batters seeing 19 pitches in the top of the seventh,
WKU couldn’t manufacture any offense. Marshall moved into Friday’s semifinal with
the 2-0 victory. WKU limited Marshall to two runs in a win for just the fifth time
on the year and ninth time overall in the contest.
Downing ended up taking the loss in the circle to move to 16-13 on the year. The
senior went 3.0+ innings on the day, allowing four hits and one earned run. Aikey
tossed the final 3.0 innings for WKU, allowing two hits with two strike outs an
“Marshall has hitters over .400 and I thought both of our pitchers today did an
excellent job of keeping us in the ball game and keeping their composure,” stated
Tudor. “They did a good job against Marshall’s high-powered offense, holding them to
just six hits on the day.”
Any information regarding the Conference USA Tournament schedule will be posted on
WKUSports.com as well as all of the team’s social media accounts. The schedule for
the remainder of the tournament is to be determined at this point with severe
weather in Friday’s forecast.
How to Follow the Hilltoppers: For complete information on WKU Softball, follow the
team on Twitter at @WKUSoftball