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Williamson provides lasting memory

May. 19, 2013 @ 12:37 AM

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Marshall University softball pitcher Andi Williamson was strong for nearly six hours Saturday in the NCAA Regionals at John Cropp Stadium.

Not until it was all over did she finally show her lone weakness -- the emotions of a tough loss.

Williamson's stellar Marshall career came to an end Saturday night in a 3-2 loss to Virginia Tech in 13 innings.

However, the performance -- not the loss -- will define all you need to know about the hard-nosed pitcher from Harts, W.Va., who helped turn Marshall softball into a national contender.

In the course of three games over 26 hours, Williamson threw 26.2 innings in the circle.

That's 463 pitches for those keeping track at home.

As stated, her final performance was one that none of the 1,547 fans at Cropp Stadium will forget any time soon.

Fresh off a win over Notre Dame in the afternoon, Williamson came out and gutted through a 216-pitch extra-inning affair that lasted 3 hours, 47 minutes.

"Just look at what Andi Williamson has done," Marshall coach Shonda Stanton said following the game. "She pitched pretty much a tripleheader back-to-back-to-back. How gritty is that?

The scary part was she got stronger as the night wore on.

How is that possible?

"Coach (Stanton) always tells us when you get tired, you've got to play with your heart," Williamson said. "That's what I do. I have a big heart and love for the game."

Following the statement, both heart and love for the game shined through in Williamson as the realization of it being her final time in the circle for the Thundering Herd set in.

The tears started to flow, but she wiped them quickly so as not to have anyone notice.

That's just the type of person she is. The moment might be tough, but she's going to be tougher.

And there was no one at the NCAA Softball Regional in Lexington tougher than Williamson.

Williamson's career ended with the loss to the Hokies to finish her season at 33-18.

That's not the team's record, that's her record in the circle. Marshall was 36-22.

She drew ovations from fans of each team the Herd played for her performance and fans were buzzing about how exciting games were because she was out there.

Then, Stanton threw her the ultimate compliment from a coach when asked what she'd remember most about her star pitcher and how she had her full trust

"I know she could continue to pitch," Stanton said. "That's what I'm going to miss -- the ease I feel as a coach. When you hand her the game ball, you don't worry about anything. You just hand her the game ball and you let her do her thing."

Williamson's final performance goes down as a loss, but it was a performance that might have defined her career better than ever.

She broke the Marshall all-time strikeout record during the game, finishing her career with 731 and passing Sara Gulla for the mark. Keep in mind, Gulla's mark came in four years while Williamson broke it in three seasons.

It's fitting she holds the record because there has never been a pitcher with a bigger impact on Marshall softball.

She was a home-grown talent that put Marshall softball on the national stage and showed it belonged there.

And she did so by being herself -- a country-tough girl from Harts capturing everyone's hearts while doing what she loved.

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