by Ed McCarnes

First the tide rushes in. It plants a kiss on the shore. Then it rolls out to sea and the sea is still once more.

This paraphrase of a song popular long ago brings to mind not only that time. It also brings to mind Marshall softball's recently completed season. The young but talent-laden team recorded significant surges (successes). But ebbs created obstacles that denied the team its season goals.

First the surges.

The Herd played .700 ball with a 35–15 record. Those numbers include a 14–9, .609 bottom line against C-USA teams. One surge consisted of win streaks of six, four (twice) and 10 games.

Marshall won five C-USA series, tied one and lost two. Over ten game segments the Herd went 9–1 twice. A 13–4 February preceeded a 10–6 March and 10–3 April. Against a strong East Division, the Herd finished 8–6. Against the West the final record was 6–3.

For Marshall, as an emerging national power, winning the conference tournament is the freeway to the NCAA post season tournament. For that reason the focus will be on results in conference play.

The high voltage offense led the conference in batting average (.355), hits (208) and stolen bases (49). That offense was also among the leaders in runs scored (2nd), doubles (2nd), triples (5th), and RBI's (2nd).

Late season conference stats show that Marshall hitters ranked 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th. The players and numbers: Elicia D'Orazio (.458), Morgan Zerkle (.453), Emeleigh Cooper (.448),

Kaelynn Green (.440), and Shaelynn Braxton (.413).

On a late season national stage Zerkle led in hits and stolen bases, was third in batting average and tenth in runs scored.

Pinch runners were inserted into games 27 times and scored 10 times. That's a .377 success rate. Jordan Colliflower and Madi Marshall were major contributors. Raquel Escareno had a double and Kylie Howard a single cameo appearance.

Lead pitcher Jordan Dixon ranked second in innings pitched (122) and fourth in strikeouts (95).

Despite the surges, Marshall finished third in the C-USA East, fifth in regular season standings and tied for fifth in the post season conference tournament. Team goals of a regular season championship, a tournament title, an invitation to the NCAA tournament and participation in a super regional slipped away.

The Herd finished 2.5 games off the season champion's pace, and three wins from an NCAA invite. The super regional remains a small particle viewed through a telescope.

So where were the ebbs inside the surges that blocked the goals? Using hitting, pitching, and defense as GPS points provide a foundation for investigation.

First the hitting. Comparison-contrast focuses the laser of learning.

The first three slots in the batting order combined for a .429 batting average, 55 runs and 41 batted in. By slot the numbers: leadoff, .494–26–11; second, .439–14–12; third .351–15–18.

The four, five and six combined for .307 batting, 29 R and 47 RBI. By slot the numbers: cleanup, .361–14–20; fifth, .258–7–13; sixth, .306–8–13. Catalog the five slot as an entity of interest.

Head Coach Shonda Stanton entered the season concerned about offense from the seven,

eight and nine positions. As the season developed concern became a wash of reality.

The bottom third combined for .294–38 and 22.

The numbers: seven, .155–11–3; eight, .267–11–11; nine, .452–16–8. Add seven and eight to the entities of interest. What D'Orazio and Greene brought to a boil in the nine spot Cooper continued as sizzle to a sterling senior season.

The second GPS beam zeros in on the pitching. The Herd's circle duo ranked fifth with ERA as the core criterion. Numbers, with one exception, verify the rank. The conference top of 21 hit batters is 8 above the league average.

A slight twist on the pitching GPS focuses on the mystery of Marissa. Bethke came to the program projected as a possible number two pitcher behind Dixon. But after three early season appearances she never returned.

Eight walks, no strikeouts and a 9.00 ERA provide a possible answer. But the program never verified or identified cause(s) for the shut down.

Finally, the defense. The Herd ranked 11th among 12 C-USA teams based on fielding percentage and fourth in errors committed. By observation throwing errors with base runners and fielding muffs were co-major problems. Thirty one errors were infield based. The positions (numbers): third base (10); shortstop (9); second base (5); first base (4); catcher (4); pitcher (1). By memory these are chronic problems that remain unresolved.

But despite the shortfalls the future looks bright. Eight position players return. The list includes Greene (LF), Zerkle (CF), Braxton (3B), Howard (SS), D'Orazio (2B), Rebecca Myslenski (1B), Taylor McCord (C), and Catalin Lucas (C-SS-3B).

Myslenski deserves special note. She stabilized the defense with emplacement at first base on a regular basis. Pegged as a stalwart defender a 6-for-13, .462 finish in the season's final four

games suggests a developing offensive presence as well.

A maturing pitching staff is intact. The position-versatile Escareno provides veteran depth. August arrivals have been hyped as yet another wave of talent.

The surges should continue and expand. If so fall ball will be interesting and the 2016 season an ocean swell time.