If you need a progress report on the state of the state's softball, consider Marshall's effort last weekend against Central Florida.
In the regular-season final series with Conference USA implications, Harts native Andi Williamson finished 24 innings of shutout ball against the Knights, some of the best pitching in her life.
Behind her were two Huntington natives, Samantha Spurlock in left field and Ashley Gue at second base, along with Clay County's Alysia Hively at first base. All helped the Thundering Herd play errorless ball.
Hively led off the bottom of the 10th inning on that Sunday afternoon at Dot Hicks Field and finally put an end to the marathon. She blasted a 3-1 pitch well over the fence in right-center field, finishing a sweep in thrilling fashion.
"It was one of those that when it was hit, the dugout just went nuts," said MU coach Shonda Stanton. "I didn't even see where it went and I turned around to watch the celebration, made sure they didn't touch her coming around third and nullify the home run."
Hively's shot gave the Herd a 34-20 overall record, pulling into a three-way tie for third place in the nine-team league at 15-9. One of those tied teams was UCF, which was three games ahead of Marshall entering the weekend.
To put that in better perspective, the Herd was 5-17-1 in league play last year and 3-20-1 in 2010. And West Virginia's only Division I program engineered that turnaround with more contributions than ever from in-state talent.
Stanton, the 13th-year coach who brings in players from coast to coast, has noticed the improvement in state talent over the years, especially on travel teams such as the Diamond Dusters.
"Our rosters have always been peppered with in-state products," Stanton said. "But as far as the impact these kids are making, these girls definitely have stepped up."
Hively, a 4.0 grade-point-average student who has come back from two surgeries, hit her sixth home run of the season. Gue, a Cabell Midland graduate, is batting .315 with a team-high 32 stolen bases. Spurlock, a Huntington High grad, joined the team's Lil Sis Program as a youngster.
But as the Herd's leading pitcher, Williamson (first name pronounced "AHN-dee") is the most visible of the bunch. She was named C-USA pitcher of the week for the second time this season after her triple shutout of UCF.
She leads the league in wins (23) and innings (215), is second in strikeouts (253) and is third in earned-run average (1.47). Batters are hitting just .187 off her.