LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Marshall softball team ended its historic run on a walk-off in a 13-inning thriller against Virginia Tech. After eliminating Notre Dame in a 3-1 defeat, the Thundering Herd took a 30-minute break before a 13-inning game that ended in the Hokies favor, 3-2.
The last time a Marshall team won a regional game was in 1996, when the football team had a perfect 15-0 season and became the National I-AA Champions.
Senior Andi Williamson took control of the all-time career record of strikeouts, which Sara Gulla previously held with 727. Williamson tied the record in the bottom of the ninth and passed it in the bottom of the tenth with her 728th strikeout of her three-year Marshall career. She ended the day with 15 strikeouts, 731 in her career.
The pitcher's duel between Senior Andi Williamson and the Big East Player of the Year Laura Winter set the tone of the contest early. Through one inning, the Herd and Fighting Irish each put a hit on the board and left runners stranded on base.
After taking down Notre Dame in the top of the second, junior Savanah Webster (1-for-3) smashed her fourth homer of the season into the right-field stands to lead off the inning, 1-0. Sophomore Emileigh Cooper came in to pinch run for senior Alysia Hively, who drew a walk from Winter. After advancing on a sacrifice bunt from freshman Katalin Lucas (1-for-2), she advanced to third and scored on a throwing error by the Fighting Irish's catcher on two outs, 2-0.
After a grounder ended the bottom of the inning, Notre Dame took one back after back-to-back hits and a Marshall throwing error allowed the Fighting Irish to shrink the deficit by one, 2-1.
Marshall gained the run back in the bottom of the third, after a fielding error allowed senior Ashley Gue to reach first safely. After stealing second and third before the second out of the inning was recorded, Gue scored on a RBI-triple from freshman Alexandra Bayne (2-for-3).
The fourth inning was scoreless, and Williamson gave the Fighting Irish no chance in the fifth with three back-to-back strikeouts, but Notre Dame took down Marshall in order for another opportunity at the plate.
Neither team was able to score the rest of the game, eliminating the Fighting Irish from the regional tournament and allowing the Herd to move on to Virginia Tech with its first-ever regional victory in the 3-1 ballgame.
In game two, the Hokies took an early lead over the Herd in the bottom of the first inning after a hit-by-pitch and stolen base was followed by a fielding error that allowed a run to cross the plate. Three back-to-back outs ended the inning with Virginia Tech taking a 1-0 lead.
The Herd created big opportunities to score in the second and third inning, but were unable to score.
Williamson hadn't given up a hit until the bottom of the fourth, when back-to-back singles to third put Hokies on first and second. A grounder to first moved the runners over and put two outs on the board. Williamson got out of the jam with her third strikeout of the game.
Marshall tilted the game into their favor in the top of the fifth, after a leadoff single from freshman Kaelynn Greene (3-for-7) fired up the Herd. Gue (3-for-6) bunt singled, and Valle reached on an error to load the bases with no outs threatening Marshall. After a strikeout put one on the board, Bayne hit a two-RBI single into the left-infield gap to give the Herd its first lead of the game, 2-1.
The Hokies tied the game in the top of the sixth, after a leadoff hit by pitch and sacrifice bunt put the tying runner in scoring position. A two-out, RBI blooper fell into right field and tied the game at 2-2.
Both teams kept each other off the board in the seventh inning to push the game into extra innings, and kept each other off the board in the eighth and ninth inning.
The Herd had a chance to take the game in the top of 10th inning after loading the bases with only one out on the board, but a force out at the plate and strikeout took the Herd off the bases and onto the field for defense.
The Herd and the Hokies battled through the 11th and 12th inning, keeping each other off the board.
Back-to-back singles from senior Bri Anna Hope and Greene, followed by an advancement on a throwing error put runners on second and third. Gue was intentionally walked to load the bases with no outs on the board, but the Herd couldn't come up with a clutch hit to take the lead in the 13th.
On two outs in the final inning of play, Virginia Tech came up with a big double that bounced off the left-center wall and forced a Marshall error to allow the winning run a safe entry to third base. A walk-off RBI single down the left-field line gave the Hokies a 3-2 victory.
Six seniors have left a legacy in the Marshall softball program, along with large shoes for the 14 returnees to fill.