Marshall edges Coastal Carolina 2-1 for spot in Sun Belt semifinal

— By David Walsh

Marshall scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning and survived a seventh-inning rally by Coastal Carolina to edge the Chanticleers, 2-1, Thursday in the quarterfinal round in the Sun Belt Conference softball tournament at Yvette Girouard Field at Lamson Park in Lafayatte, La.

The Thundering Herd, playing in its first Sun Belt tournament, did the damage with two outs. Alex Coleman reached on a bunt and then Sydney Bickel and Alex Coleman went down on strikes. Coleman would steal second to set the stage for Grace Chelemen. The left-handed hitter belted a ground-double to center off Coastal Carolina starter Raelee Brabam (12-12) to drive home the game’s first run. Camryn Michallas lined a 2-2 pitch up the middle for an RBI single to plate Chelemen for a 2-0 lead.

The visitors made a pitching change and Nicollete Picone hit pinch hitter Lauren Love to put runners on first and second. Abby Darnley then pinch hit and drew a walk to load the bases. The threat ended when Emily Allen, another pinch hitter, took a called third strike.

Coastal Carolina wouldn’t go quietly. Herd starter Sydney Nester (26-7) retired the first two batters. Levi Payne reached on an error and Maddy Jennings followed with an RBI double to right center to score Payne. Libby Pippin drew a walk to put runners on first and second only to see Nester retire Diamond Williams on a foul pop to Michallas at third to end it and put the Herd in the semifinal round Friday. Marshall (44-9) will play No. 3 seed South Alabama at 5 p.m. EST. It will be the first meeting between the two this season.

Coastal Carolina (36-20) got a three-run homer in 10th inning Wednesday to eliminate No. 10 Southern Miss, 4-1.

The 44 wins are the most in a season in Herd program history. Earlier this season, Marshall won a single-season record 23 straight games.

Nester entered the day as the Sun Belt leader in wins, strikeouts and earned run average. She fanned nine and allowed just three hits.

Owens, a catcher, won the triple crown in Sun Belt stats with a .470 batting average, home runs with 19 and RBI with 70.

Bickel, a transfer from Louisville, was the league’s newcomer of the year. She made All -Sun Belt first team along with Chelemen, Coleman, Owens and Nester.

South Alabama scored twice each in the first two innings and Olivia Lackie (21-7) limited James Madison to four hits and fanned 10 as the Jaguars topped the Dukes, 4-1. Meredith Keel, Mackenzie Brashar and Sasha Willems each had an RBI for winners.





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