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Hope leads Herd past ECU

May. 10, 2013 @ 12:21 AM

TULSA, Okla. -- When it looked like hope was dim for Marshall's softball team, the Herd found Hope on its side.

Bri Anna Hope laced a three-run double in the bottom of the fifth and Andi Williamson shut the door over the final two frames to give the Herd an exciting 5-4 win over East Carolina in the first round of the Conference USA softball tournament at the Collins Family Softball Complex in Tulsa, Okla., on Thursday evening.

With the win, Marshall moves on to face top-seed UAB at 5:30 p.m. in Friday's Conference USA semifinals.

In a game full of errors, it was East Carolina's lone miscue that gave the Herd life and Hope the opportunity to deliver the big hit.

Marshall trailed 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth when East Carolina's Meredith Mitchell dropped a fly ball by the Herd's Shaelynn Braxton.

The error allowed pinch-runner Emileigh Cooper to move to third and Braxton wound up on second. After a strikeout led to the inning's second out, a walk to Savanah Webster loaded the bases for Hope.

The Herd's senior second baseman turned on an 0-1 pitch and sent it into the gap in center field to plate all three runs and give Marshall its first lead of the day.

From there, Williamson did the rest.

With the game-tying run staring her down at third base, Williamson induced a groundout back to the circle to send the Herd into a semifinal rematch with the Blazers, who earned a 3-2 win over Southern Miss in 10 innings in the game prior to Marshall-East Carolina.

On the day, Williamson allowed five hits and four runs -- none earned -- while walking one and striking out two.

For Marshall, the scene was eerily similar to that seen when the Pirates came to Huntington and swept the Herd.

In the three-game series, Marshall committed 18 errors en route to three blow-out losses.

On Thursday evening, the Herd committed five errors in all, but Williamson constantly worked out of jams to keep the Herd in striking distance before Hope put the team over the top.

East Carolina led 4-1 after a single by Jill Jelnick plating a pair of runs -- the second scoring on a throwing error. Mitchell and Jasmine Robbins, who had reached on a previous error in the inning, scored on the play.

The Herd got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Webster doubled and pinch-runner Kristina Braxton scored on a single by Alexandra Bayne.

Marshall's 2013 run in the Conference USA tournament is looking strikingly similar to its 2012 run to the championship game where the team lost to Tulsa.

In last year's tournament, the Herd defeated East Carolina in the opening round before beating UAB in extra innings in the semis. They then fell to Tulsa in the championship, 3-2.

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