Morgan Zerkle Returns Home To Lead Alma Mater Marshall
It was a little over six years ago when Morgan Zerkle played her last collegiate softball game as a member of Marshall University's program.
To say she thrived at Marshall would be an understatement. Zerkle is the program’s all-time leader in career batting average, hitting .451 over her four years there. She reached base safely in 176 of her 194 career games, stole 162 bases overall, has the program record for single-season batting average (.506) and is only one of three players in program history to be named an All-American, receiving that honor her senior year.
Now, the native West Virginian is returning home, this time as Marshall's head coach.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling to be given this opportunity,” said Zerkle. “I’m going to work hard at it and do my absolute best to live up to those expectations that a lot of people have for me and the program.”
Zerkle will be the fifth head coach in program history, taking over for Megan Smith Lyon, who will be coaching this season at the University of North Carolina, her alma mater.
Zerkle is returning home with plenty of coaching experience, having been an assistant coach at Miami University for the past four seasons. In her time with the RedHawks and Miami head coach Kirin Kumar, the team had plenty of success, winning three straight Mid-American Conference championships and making it to the NCAA Regional final in Evanston, Ill. this past season, losing narrowly to Northwestern. Additionally, with Zerkle’s knowledge of hitting, the RedHawks' offense soared. This past season alone, Miami hit 97 home runs as a team, following 114 home runs the season prior.
While it remains to be seen what type of offense Marshall will put on display this season, it’s having the ability to see what capabilities your hitters have and then maximizing them, according to Zerkle, that’s most important.
“At Miami, I had honestly more of a powerful team. We didn’t have any slappers,” said Zerkle. “So, really, it just depends on personnel, and then lucky for me, I think I have a good foundation in all aspects of offense to be able to teach those different skill sets to the players depending on what they need.”
Also, luckily for Zerkle, the Herd are coming off a successful offensive campaign this past season, batting .333 as a team. Shortstop Sydney Bickel is returning for her senior year after winning the Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year award. The Louisville transfer had a batting average of .363 for the season and finished second on the team in runs scored with 57, while also smashing 11 doubles. First baseman Rielly Lucas is also returning after finishing tied for second on the team in home runs last season with eight.
In the circle, senior Savannah Rice is back for another year after compiling a 12-0 record last season with a 2.63 ERA.
Overall, the Herd are looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017. And with a record of 45-10 last season, their momentum seems to be heading in the right direction.
“I’m really passionate about developing kids and the program to be as successful as it was last year,” said Zerkle. “I think the individual athletes have so much room to grow. So, I’m most excited about coming to a blank slate of athletes and being able to teach them everything I know.”
Zerkle will also be coming into the 2024 season with plenty of knowledge gained from coaching alongside her former coach at Marshall, Shonda Stanton. Before arriving at Miami, Zerkle spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Indiana University with Stanton. While Stanton and Kumar have some similarities, according to Zerkle, they also have plenty of differences.
At Miami, she learned how to set standards and expectations for your team, while also allowing the players to create their own expectations. And at Indiana, she learned the “ins and outs of coaching,” and how to run a program from behind the scenes. Having had the opportunity to see coaching from two different angles, Zerkle believes, was an advantage that will help her in her own head coaching career.
“I’m excited to use both of my experiences and take them back to my home and elevate Marshall softball,” said Zerkle. “Because, for me, there’s no reason why Marshall should not be competing more consistently on the national stage.”