Marshall softball coach Shonda Stanton believes she has a ace in the hole, or more specifically in the circle, when the Thundering Herd takes the field against East Carolina in the first round of the Conference USA softball tournament in Tulsa, Ok.
Andi Williamson, from Harts, W.Va, has carved through C-USA batters this season, compiling 29 wins and 332 strikeouts.
No, that’s not a typo.
Williamson is second in the county in strikeouts and at one point this season was tops in the in the nation. To put Williamson’s accomplishments into perspective, 291 institutions play softball in Division I and 180 them have less than 29 wins. Williamson is going for her 30th win of the season when she toes the rubber against the Pirates.
“It is such a record-breaking season,” said head coach Shonda Stanton. “Every time she takes the ball she has a opportunity to break a new record and you’re talking about an individual record of getting 30 wins.”
Thursday will be the first time the Pirates have seen Williamson this season. When East Carolina came to Huntington during the regular season, Williamson was out with an injury. The rest of the conference has faced Williamson three times already; the Pirates will get their first look in the league tournament.
While Williamson has been the key to Marshall’s second consecutive 30-win season, Stanton has also gotten production at the plate from several freshmen who stepped into critical roles right away.
“We told our team that there was not going to be any in between early on. We were either going to be really good or really bad,” recalled Stanton.
Freshman Kaelynn Greene is one of the team’s top hitters with a .344 average. Freshman Shaelynn Braxton leads the club with 18 runs batted against conference opponents.
“They have stepped up and stepped up big from grand slams, to RBI’s up the middle to make plays in the field,” asserted Stanton.
“Every time she takes the ball she has a opportunity to break a new record and you’re talking about an individual record of getting 30 wins.” — Shonda Stanton on Andi Williamson
Marshall is seeded fourth heading into post-season play, finishing 32-20 in the regular season and Stanton likes where her team is positioned.
“I think it’s a situation where our team is very confident because we’re at full strength now,” said Stanton.
And it is looking to make a statement.
“When East Carolina came they just handed it to us. We had more errors than hits and we were just out of sorts that weekend. This is a chance for a little payback and make up for our lack of play and lack of performance.”
First pitch between Marshall and East Carolina is set for 8 p.m. Eastern.