Marshall to play Kentucky
HUNTINGTON -- There were plenty of scenarios that played out in the heads of Marshall's softball players as they watched the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night in the Hartley Room at Cam Henderson Center.
And after seeing their name pop up on the screen, all agreed that there was not a better or more fitting scenario.
Marshall, the Conference USA Champions, will take on No. 12 Kentucky at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in the opening round of the Lexington Region. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
"This group expects to win. That's what I'm excited about," Marshall coach Shonda Stanton said. "We went to the C-USA Tournament and expected to win and we did. Going into regionals isn't 'Thankfully, we made our first regional.' We expect to win it. Why not the Herd? There's four teams in that region. But how great is it to see Marshall's name up there with the likes of Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Kentucky."
The game will serve as Marshall's first-ever in NCAA Regional play after the Herd clinched its initial berth with a win over Houston in the Conference USA title game on Saturday.
Donning C-USA champion hats and T-shirts, Marshall players jumped for joy when the decision came across the screen at 10:14 p.m. on Sunday night.
For the Herd players, the elation was not just about the chance at playing in the NCAA Regionals, although make no mistake, they were thrilled about the opportunity.
There was just a bit more to it, however.
On April 9, Marshall traveled to Lexington to take on the Wildcats in a mid-week non-conference matchup.
The Herd led 3-1 heading into the final inning before things fell apart in a 4-3 loss.
Marshall committed a pair of seventh-inning errors and pitcher Andi Williamson was hit in the back of the head by a throw from catcher Katalin Lucas, who was trying to catch a runner stealing.
Kentucky went on to score three runs in the inning and Williamson missed the next week of action with a concussion.
Now, the Herd gets another chance at knocking off the Wildcats.
"It worked out perfect for us," Williamson said. "I'm really excited that we get to go there and show them what we are made of. We're familiar with them and we know their weaknesses, so I'm really excited. We had the game won and we know we can do it again."
Williamson said one of the biggest bonuses of playing Kentucky in Lexington is that Marshall fans can make the 90-minute trek down I-64 West to take in the game.
The game will be played at John Cropp Stadium, which was renovated recently and served as host for the SEC Tournament this weekend.
It will be an exciting opportunity for Herd fans to experience first-class softball, according to Stanton.
"They had over 12,000 fans this weekend for the SEC Tournament," Stanton said. "It's going to be a huge crowd. How great is it going to be to have some new fans there from Marshall University?"
In addition to the host Wildcats, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech are also in the Lexington Region and will kick off the action at 5 p.m. on Friday from John Cropp Stadium.
Marshall advanced to the NCAA Regionals with a 3-1 win over Houston in Saturday's Conference USA Championship. The Herd also defeated UAB and East Carolina in the tournament.
Williamson was named the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament after not surrendering an earned run in 21 innings of work.
Outfielder Ashley Gue, infielders Jazmine Valle and Bri Anna Hope and catcher Katalin Lucas were also named to the all-tournament team.
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