Herd stays hot, sweeps Memphis
HUNTINGTON -- It was a tense situation. It was the bottom off the 11th inning and up to that point, all Memphis and Marshall had done was put up zeroes on the scoreboard located behind the centerfield wall at Dot Hicks Field.
Marshall, which saw a potential run cut down on a base-running error in the bottom of the fourth inning, had the potential winning run in scoring position again. Bri Anna Hope reached on a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Katalin Lucas.
Up came Jazmine Valle, who admitted she's been struggling a bit at the plate of late. This time the senior third baseman belted a shot down the right-field line that eluded Tigers outfielder Ijiah Hargrove and went for a walk-off triple as Hope raced home to give the Thundering Herd a 1-0 victory in the opening game of Friday's Conference USA softball doubleheader.
The happiest person among the Herd faithful had to be starting pitcher Andi Williamson, who limited the Tigers to three hits, walked eight and struck out 13 in the route-going effort.
Before Valle went to the plate for the decisive at-bat, she offered a quick comment to Williamson. "I got you," is what Valle said she told the right-hander.
"When she says that you know she's going to get the job done," Williamson said. "I wasn't worried. I knew we were going to score."
Valle wasn't through. In the nightcap, she hit a two-run home run, got a run home on a perfect bunt on a suicide squeeze and lashed a double off the wall in center for a 3-for-3 day with three runs batted. Raquel Escareno added a two-run homer in a four-run fourth, sparking Marshall to a 6-3 victory.
The sweep kept several Thundering Herd streaks alive. Marshal (22-12, 8-3 C-USA) has now won eight straight league games, 12 straight in regular season games and 19 in a row at home -- all are school records.
"Andi and Jazmine came through when we needed it," Marshall coach Shonda Stanton said. "I couldn't be more pleased. We got through the first one and the bats came alive in the second."
Valle and Hope, senior second baseman, each had 4-for-7 days. Defensively, Valle had five assists and seven putouts. Hope contributed four assists and seven putouts. Williamson (21-11) worked a total of 16 innings and had two wins and 15 strikeouts to show for it.
"It feels good to be back," Valle said. "It was an outside pitch (from Memphis starter Ellen Roberts) and I went with it. I saw her (Hargrove) dive. I said, 'please don't catch it.' "
Williamson also had to get past five illegal pitch calls early in the first game. She held the Tigers (14-24, 3-8 C-USA) hitless over the final seven innings.
"You can't let it bother you," Williamson said. "You make sure you step down (on the rubber) on the pitch."
Williamson left after five innings of game two and Halie Vance worked the final two innings to get the save.
"I appreciated that," Williamson said of being staked to a 6-1 lead through four innings. "I was very thankful. I was a little tired. I gave it all I could in the second. We won both ways. It was so much fun."
Valle certainly enjoyed her displays of power and touch.
"A home run and squeeze bunt. I can do both," she said.
The teams conclude the series Saturday at noon.
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