Herd wins C-USA softball title
TULSA, Okla. -- After being so close last season, Marshall University pitcher Andi Williamson wasn't going to let a chance at the NCAAs slip through her fingers once again.
Williamson repeatedly got out of jams and used a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh inning -- her only 1-2-3 inning of the game -- to give Marshall a 3-1 win over Houston in the Conference USA softball championship Saturday at Collins Family Softball Complex.
Marshall lost to Tulsa in the 2012 championship game.
"We wouldn't have been satisfied with being runner-up again," Williamson said. "Since the beginning of the year, we said we want to be the best team in Marshall history. Everyone has worked so hard. We had that bitterness (of last year) plus that hunger and it really paid off."
Marshall (35-20) will advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history. The NCAA Selection Show is scheduled for Sunday at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.
Thundering Herd head coach Shonda Stanton said the win was not just for this year's team, but for every team that's taken the field and represented the school.
"This is for all of the girls who have ever worn the green and white," Stanton said. "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."
Last season, Marshall's team gathered in its locker room at Dot Hicks Field, only to hear five other C-USA teams get their name called as part of the NCAA tournament field while they learned their season was over.
That won't happen this time.
"It's a lot better than last year because last year was uncertain and we never heard our name," Williamson said. "It's exciting to know we are going to go somewhere. I'm just excited to be going."
Williamson allowed just four hits in seven innings and one unearned run while walking two and striking out four. She got stronger as the game went on, looking dominant in the sixth and seventh innings.
Marshall's run production in the championship came from some unfamiliar heroes at the bottom of the lineup.
A key insurance run came across the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning when pinch-hitter Alex Bayne stepped up and delivered an RBI double to score Bri Anna Hope and set the final score.
It was all Williamson would need as she allowed just a lone single in the final 10 batters to set off the Herd celebration.
Marshall never trailed in the contest, getting a pair of runs in the second inning following a double by Katalin Lucas to take a 2-0 lead.
The relay throw from Houston's Kayla Holland went into the Marshall dugout allowing pinch-runner Kristina Braxton and Lucas to both score.
Houston (40-18) cut the lead to one run on an RBI single by Haley Outon which scored Katie St. Pierre, who had reached second on a throwing error following her infield single.
The Herd certainly could've made things easier on itself in the game. Marshall stranded 10 runners in the game and committed three errors -- one of which led to the Cougars' lone run.
Houston had the leadoff runner on base in each inning from the second to fifth and three of those innings started with a leadoff runner in scoring position -- two of those instances from errors.
At each turn, Williamson got critical outs to shut the door.
"I just tried to not think about it," Williamson said. "Batters get on base. It's part of the game. If they got on, we just moved on to the next batter."
Jazmine Valle finished 2-for-2 for Marshall while Lucas was 2-for-3 with the critical double.
C-USA softball all-tournament team
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Andi Williamson, P, Marshall
Name Position School
Ashley Gue OF Marshall
Jazmine Valle IF Marshall
Bri Anna Hope IF Marshall
Katalin Lucas C Marshall
Kate St. Pierre OF Houston
Caitlin Everett OF Tulsa
Holly Anderson IF Houston
Jill Barrett IF Tulsa
Bailey Watts P Houston
Andi Williamson P Marshall
Taylor Beck UT Southern Miss
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.