Marshall loses heartbreaker
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- On several occasions Saturday night, the Marshall University softball team was just one at-bat away from making it to the NCAA regional championship against the Kentucky Wildcats.
That needed hit simply never came to fruition.
The Thundering Herd left 18 runners on base and Virginia Tech finally broke through for the game-winning hit, an RBI single to left field by Bkaye Smith to earn a 3-2 win in 13 innings in front of 1,547 fans at John Cropp Stadium.
Marshall's season ends with a 36-22 record.
"I feel for these kids who have given everything they had and come up short," Marshall head coach Shonda Stanton said. "That's life sometimes. You give everything and sometimes, you don't get what you want.
"A real champion is able to take that on the chin and walk out here with their shoulders back and their head high and say we aren't defined by any loss, just like we aren't defined by any win."
Smith's RBI single scored Amanda Ake, who had doubled and reached third on an error -- the Herd's fifth error of the game.
It came in a wild 13th inning that saw the Hokies earn the win with a two-out rally while Marshall wasted an opportunity with three chances at the plate in the top half of the frame.
In the top of the 13th, it appeared the Herd had gotten the break it needed when Bri Anna Hope led off with a single and moved to third following a Kaelynn Greene single and throwing error by the Hokies. With runners on second and third, the Hokies elected to intentionally walk Ashley Gue to load the bases for senior Jazmine Valle.
Valle hit a shot to right field that was caught, but Hope had trailed too far off of third base thinking the ball might fall and didn't tag up.
A strikeout on a squeeze attempt was followed by a flyout to get the Hokies out of the jam.
"I'm proud of the way we were able to hang in there and kept battling through," Virginia Tech coach Scot Nelson said. "We were able to get out of some extra-inning jams and Jasmin (Harrell) threw great and we were able to get a run there in the 13th. What a great game for everybody."
Marshall finished the contest a staggering 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position en route to its second extra-inning loss in as many days.
Valle said the Herd feels like they gave the game away by not cashing in on the opportunities.
"We just weren't making the right adjustments at the plate and we weren't getting the timely hit that we needed," Valle said. "It feels like someone punched us in the stomach. It's a terrible feeling, but at least we know we left it all out on the field."
The loss also spoiled a remarkable performance by Marshall pitcher Andi Williamson, who came back 30 minutes after a 3-1 win over Notre Dame in the first game to throw all 13 innings and take the hard-luck loss that ended her Herd career.
Williamson recorded nine strikeouts, which gives her the distinction as Marshall's all-time strikeout leader in program history with 731. She passed former Marshall pitcher Sara Gulla for the all-time mark.
In the two days of the NCAA tournament, Williamson threw 26.2 innings and allowed just 24 hits and four earned runs while striking out 20 batters.
Both teams went scoreless through the first five extra innings despite having several opportunities as Williamson and Harrell took turns shutting down rallies.
Harrell allowed 13 hits, but only two runs (one earned) while walking six and striking out 13.
"I am kind of weird because I feel more relaxed (in jams) because I know I can go home with the ball or it's a play anywhere at the plate so I just keep thinking strikeout or get a groundball so we can maybe turn two," Harrell said.
Marshall led the game 2-1 with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning from the top of the order. Greene and Gue led off with infield singles and an error by third basemen Dani Anderson loaded the bases before Alex Bayne notched a two-run single to left.
Virginia Tech (37-20) tied the game in the sixth inning by scraping together a run on a bloop single by Logan Spaw into right field that scored Kylie McGoldrick.
The Hokies took the early lead on an unearned run in the first after Lauren Gaskill was hit by a pitch. She scored after a hard-hit grounder found its way through the legs of Alysia Hively and bounded into right field.
The disappointing loss came after Marshall got its first-ever victory in NCAA Regional play in the day's first game against Notre Dame, 3-1.
That win wasn't something that was lost on Stanton.
"Game one today against Notre Dame, when you think of Notre Dame, you think of tradition and (in that game) our kids, just how gutsy we were today, and battled to get that win," Stanton said. "That was impressive."
Williamson was brilliant for the Herd, scattering six hits and allowing just an unearned run while walking one and striking out six.
The senior from Harts, W.Va., had retired 11 straight before Notre Dame made the game interesting in its final at-bat by getting runners on first and second with one out. Williamson got a strikeout looking before inducing a fielder's choice to end the game.
After looking a bit timid at the plate in a Friday loss to Kentucky, the Herd was much more aggressive in its swings and overall play in the win over Notre Dame.
The Herd got a pair of runs in the second inning. Savanah Webster led the inning off with a solo home run following an adjustment on a change-up to give the Herd a 1-0 lead.
Hively stepped to the plate next and earned a walk before giving way to pinch-runner Emileigh Cooper. The move paid off as Cooper moved to second on a sacrifice then faked a steal of third. Notre Dame catcher Amy Buntin came up throwing, but her throw went into left field, allowing Cooper to score for a 2-0 lead.
Notre Dame trimmed the deficit in the next half-inning, scoring on a throwing error when Webster's attempt to throw out a runner at third on a sacrifice fly sailed into the stands.
Marshall got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Gue reached on an error, stole second and later scored on a triple off the left-field wall by Bayne.
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