TULSA, Okla. - The Marshall softball team made history Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., capturing its first Conference USA championship with a 3-1 win over Houston.
The victory comes another milestone for the Herd - the team's first appearance in the NCAA tournament. Marshall (35-20), the fourth seed, will learn its destination in the NCAA tournament tonight when the selection show is broadcast on ESPNU beginning at 10 p.m.
Andi Williamson was again dominant in the circle for Marshall, scattering four hits while striking out four and walking four in seven innings. The Cougars' lone run was unearned.
For the C-USA tournament, Williamson allowed just one earned run and fanned 12 in 21 innings en route to earning Most Valuable Player honors.
"Our main goal was to win it," said Williamson (32-16), a senior from Chapmanville. "I am still so speechless. I still cannot believe that it happened. We are going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. That has been our main goal since the beginning. We said that we would not be satisfied with second place, and that showed with the determination that we played with all game."
Marshall's offense provided all the support Williamson would need in the bottom of the second inning.
Junior Savanah Webster led off the inning with a walk and pinch-runner Kristina Braxton advanced to third on Katalin Lucas' double to right field. Cougars second baseman Kayla Holland chucked the relay throw into the Marshall dugout, allowing both runners to score for a 2-0 Herd advantage.
"She [Lucas] had been struggling a little bit offensively," said Marshall coach Shonda Stanton. "She came down the line and I asked her if she wanted to do a hit-and-run and she said, 'I don't know.' I looked at her and said, 'Tell me.' She said 'yes' and then afterward she said, 'Thanks' and I said, 'I did nothing.' It was all her putting bat on ball."
Houston (40-18), the No. 2 seed in the tournament, answered with a run in the top of the third aided by a Herd throwing error, but could get no closer. Marshall capped the scoring in the fourth inning as Alexandra Bayne plated Bri Anna Hope with a double to right. The Herd stranded 10 runners on base, while Houston left eight. Despite the loss, the Cougars will likely receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament today.
"This is a big win for us, getting to the championship game as the four seed and doing what we did," said Stanton. "This is for all of the girls who have evern worn the Green and White. This is our 20th anniversary of Marshall softball. We have so many special people, and I am so proud of the way our student-athletes represented today."
Lucas and senior Jazmine Valle each had two hits for the Herd.
"We are beyond excited," said senior Ashley Gue. "No team in Marshall history has ever gone to the NCAA Tournament. All year long we've been saying this is the team that we've been waiting for at Marshall, the team that can take us really far. As long as we play our game, we don't think any team can beat us."