UK edges Marshall, 2-1
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The tears in the eyes of Andi Williamson said everything at game's end.
Marshall University's first-ever game in the NCAA Softball Regionals ended in a bit of disappointment as an RBI single by Nikki Sagermann gave No. 12 University of Kentucky a 2-1 win over the Thundering Herd in eight innings Friday night in front of 1,699 fans at John Cropp Stadium.
"It was a great experience and a great opportunity, but we're not here to play," Williamson said. "We're here to win. We have to forget about tonight's game and move on to tomorrow."
With the loss, Marshall now plays Notre Dame at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, in an elimination game.
The experience in the NCAAs was the first for Marshall, but unfortunately, the way it ended was familiar.
It was the second time this season Kentucky had gotten a walk-off win against the Herd. The Wildcats also earned a 4-3 win in the regular season after scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Griffin Joiner led off the bottom of the eighth Friday with a double over the head of center-fielder Ashley Gue and Marshall intentionally walked Lauren Cumbess to try to set up a force play.
That was quickly erased after a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Once again, the Herd chose to intentionally walk the bases loaded to set up the force play, but Sagermann's single up the middle ended the exciting game.
It was a quick turn of events from the top of the eighth inning when Marshall threatened with runners on second and third with two down, but a looping liner was snagged by Sagermann to end the threat.
"I just lived the dream and I'm still living it," Sagermann said.
The exciting final inning came after both Williamson and Kentucky pitcher Kelsey Nunley settled into a pitcher's duel in front of a raucous crowd that appeared nearly even with support from both Kentucky and Marshall.
Williamson allowed 10 hits and two earned runs while walking four (two intentional) and striking out five.
Despite the disappointment of the loss, Williamson made a point to reach out to thank the Marshall contingent of around 800 on hand, which included former Marshall and NFL quarterback Chad Pennington, who spoke to the team after the game.
"I'm so thankful that we have this fan base to come support us," Williamson said. "It shows what a community we have in Huntington."
Both teams came up with plays to keep the score knotted 1-1 after the Herd and Wildcats scored in the middle incnings.
Marshall (35-21) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but Kentucky (39-18) tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when Sylver Samuel led off with a hit and stole second before a base hit by Kara Dill brought her home.
It was Williamson's first earned run allowed in the postseason.
Dill wound up on second after the throw home, but Marshall got out of the threat with a 5-3-6 double play. Jazmine Valle threw out Griffin Joiner following a grounder to third and Alysia Hively fired to shortstop Alexander Bayne, who was covering third in behind Valle to get Dill.
Marshall made several plays in the field to back Williamson including a diving stop in the first inning by Bri Anna Hope who flipped to Bayne, who threw out Joiner at the plate.
"That right there goes to show that we were plugged in and we were ready," Marshall head coach Shonda Stanton said.
Marshall got its run with a bit of small-ball in the fourth inning after going down in order without a baserunner on its first trip through the lineup.
Kaelynn Greene came across to score on a single up the middle by Shaelynn Braxton after Greene had stolen third on a fake bunt attempt by Braxton.
By showing bunt, Braxton pulled in Sagermann and Greene beat shortstop Christian Stokes to third base. She scored two pitches later as Braxton was able to single up the middle past Nunley.
Greene had led off the inning with Marshall's first base hit -- a bunt that went only about six feet -- but was perfectly placed and she beat out the throw. Gue followed with a sacrifice to move Greene to second.
Nunley allowed just six hits in eight innings while walking one and striking out five.
Kentucky takes on Virginia Tech at 1 p.m., Saturday, with the winner advancing to the regional championship game Sunday. The Hokies earned a 4-3 win over Notre Dame in Friday's first game.