LEXINGTON, Ky. –In front of a crowd of 1,699 at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky., the Marshall softball team (35-21) competed in extra innings against host-school No. 12 Kentucky (39-18). In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Thundering Herd lost on a bases-loaded, walk-off hit that broke the tie and gave the Wildcats a 2-1 victory.
Marshall hadn’t played an extra-inning game since March 29 against Memphis, when the Herd came out on top with a 1-0 victory.
Senior Andi Williamson struck out five to put her career mark at 716, closely trailing Sara Gulla’s 727 all-time record. Freshman Kaelynn Greene (2-for-4) and Shaelynn Braxton (2-for-4) came up big in the fourth inning to give the Herd the first lead of the game.
Kentucky and Marshall’s first-round game in the NCAA Lexington Regional began with three scoreless innings. The Herd had three 1-2-3 innings, while the Wildcats connected for four hits, but were unable to score.
The Herd changed the game in the fourth after Greene recorded Marshall’s first hit of the contest with a bunt single to third base. After moving to second on a sacrifice bunt from senior Ashley Gue (1-for-3), Greene robbed the Wildcats of third base. A two-out, RBI-single from S. Braxton put the Herd on the board, giving it the first lead of the game.
Kentucky tied the game in the bottom of the fifth after a lead-off single and stolen base put Kentucky in scoring position. A RBI-shot to right field allowed a Wildcat to cross the plate with no outs threatening the bottom of the inning. A game-changing double play cleared the bases for Williamson, who struck out her fourth batter of the night to end the inning.
Marshall threatened Kentucky in the top of the sixth after getting runners on second and third on two outs, but the Herd was unable to break the tie.
After shutting down the Wildcats in order, the Herd returned to the plate in the top of the seventh and drew a leadoff walk, but three back-to-back infield pop ups ended the Herd’s chance to score.
Kentucky almost took the game in the bottom of the inning after a one-out shot into deep-center field, but a sacrifice bunt and ground ball to third concluded the seventh still in a tie to push the game into the eighth.
On one out in the extra-inning, Gue bunt singled to reach base. Senior Jazmine Valle was hit by a pitch for the second time to put Marshall on first and second. After a check swing turned into a close-call out at first base, a great snag by Kentucky’s third baseman snatched the chance for Marshall to take a lead.
The Wildcats hammered a leadoff double off the center-field wall, before back-to-back intentional walks loaded the bases. On the second pitch from Williamson, a walk-off single up the middle ended Marshall’s first appearance in a NCAA regional.
Out of the four Conference USA teams that competed in the first round of NCAA Regionals, the Herd was one-of-three teams that will not be in the winner’s bracket on Saturday. Tulsa dropped 4-2 to Stanford and Houston dropped 6-4 to South Carolina. UAB was the only other C-USA team to have a Friday victory with a 6-3 win over UCLA.
The Herd will play at 3:30 against Notre Dame (43-14), who dropped to Virginia Tech (36-19) in game one 4-3. Should Marshall win, they will face the losing team in the Kentucky-Virginia Tech game.
Saturday, May 18 Game 3 - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 - 1 p.m. ET (ESPN3) Game 4 - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 - 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3) Game 5 - Loser Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 - 6 p.m. ET (ESPN3)