TULSA, Okla. – For the first time in school history, the Marshall softball team will be heading to the NCAA Tournament after a 3-1 win over Houston on Saturday to capture its first ever Conference USA Championship.
The No. 4 seed Thundering Herd (35-20) received another outstanding pitching performance from senior Andi Williamson (32-16) who pitched all seven innings, scattered four hits, struck out four, walked two and allowed the only run which was unearned. She was named the C-USA Tournament MVP and shared all-tournament team honors with Ashley Gue, Bri Anna Hope, Katalin Lucas and Jazimine Valle.
Williamson ended the tournament without allowing an earned run and struck out 12 in 21 innings of work.
“Our main goal was to win it. I am still so speechless,” Williamson said. “I still cannot believe that it happened. We are going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. That has been our main goal since the beginning. We said that we would not be satisfied with second place, and that showed with the determination that we played with all game.”
Not only did Marshall get a big performance from its senior pitcher, but the freshmen as well. Lucas went 2-for-3 at the plate, scored a run and had a stolen base. Alexandra Bayne came through in the fourth inning with a key insurance run, an RBI double as a pinch-hitter to score the game’s third and final run. Bayne also had a stolen base.
Senior Jazmine Valle went 2-for-2 as the Herd finished the game with eight hits to the Cougars’ four.
“This is a big win for us, getting to the championship game as the four seed and doing what we did,” said head coach Shonda Stanton. “This is for all of the girls who have ever worn the green and white. This is our twentieth anniversary of Marshall Softball. We have so many special people, and I am so proud of the way our student-athletes represented today.”
Marshall, which never trailed, was the first to score. A lead-off walk from junior Savanah Webster put sophomore pinch runner Kristina Braxton on first in her place. With one out, Lucas doubled into right field. In the throw back to the plate, Houston second baseman Kayla Holland threw the ball into Marshall’s dugout and was charged for the error that allowed K. Braxton and Lucas to score, 2-0.
No. 2 seed Houston (40-18) took one back in the top of the third as a leadoff single and throwing error put Houston on second base with no outs. Back-to-back outs put Marshall one out away from shutting Houston down for another inning, but an RBI-single by Haley Outon brought a Katie St. Pierre across the plate to shrink the lead, 2-1.
Houston threatened to score in the top of the fourth inning, but the Herd ended the threat and took the opportunity to extend the lead in the bottom of the fourth. Webster led the inning off with a single through the left side of the infield, but was taken out at second on a fielder’s choice by Hope on first. Lucas singled into right field to put runners on first and second, before Bayne blasted an RBI-double down the right-field line to push Marshall ahead, 3-1.
Both teams stranded multiple runners on base, Houston with eight, Marshall with 10.
Diedre Outon (12-7) took the loss for the Cougars, who will most likely receive an at-large bid to next weekend’s NCAA Tournament.
Marshall will find out what regional it will play in via the NCAA selection show on Sunday at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.