After advancing all the way to the Conference USA championship game, Andi Williamson and the Marshall University softball team figured they would have a good shot of earning a berth in the NCAA Softball Tournament.
The Herd finished the regular season 36-21 overall and 15-9 in the conference with the 3-2 loss to Tulsa back on May 12 in the championship game.
Marshall, however, received no call to play in the national tourney.
The NCAA Selection Committee instead picked Tulsa and passed over the Herd by tabbing Conference USA teams Houston, UAB and UCF.
The UCF pick was quite puzzling as Marshall swept the Golden Knights, 5-0, 4-0 and 1-0 in a late-season series at Dot Hicks Field in Huntington.
Marshall also took two of three against Houston this season at home as the Herd won 5-2 and 1-0 and fell 3-2 to the Cougars.
“We were very disappointed that we weren’t picked,” said Williamson recently as she attended Chapmanville’s regional baseball tourney game against Wayne at Ted Ellis Field on May 17. “With the teams that made it over us we felt like we deserved to be there. We were the runner-up team in the conference.”
Williamson, a junior, was Marshall’s pitching ace this season.
The Harts native and Chapmanville Regional High School graduate was named as a Conference USA second team pick at season’s end. She was also named all-region.
Williamson won 25 games within the circle this season to lead Conference USA, breaking Marshall’s single season high of 23. Her 1.50 ERA is the fifth-best number in school history. She struck out 268 batters to lead the league and was two shy of tying the single-season mark at Marshall.
Williamson also held opponents to a paltry average of .195, the lowest number in school history and the only one below .200.
The Conference USA picks did poorly in the NCAA Tournament with a combined 2-8 record.
Conference champ Tulsa won 9-7 over Oregon State in its tourney opener at Norman, Okla. The Golden Hurricane then lost 7-1 to the Oklahoma Sooners and were eliminated 2-1 by the Oregon State Beavers in a rematch.
Houston was also 1-2 in its Austin, Texas, region. The Cougars won 2-1 over Auburn, then lost 13-9 to Northwestern and 10-1 to the host Texas Longhorns.
UCF was 0-2 in its Gainesville, Fla., region, losing to South Florida (1-0) and the host Florida Gators (7-1).
UAB went 0-2 at Knoxville, Tenn., falling to Virginia Tech (4-1) and to the host Tennessee Volunteers (7-1).
Williamson played one season at Tennessee in 2010 before transferring to Marshall last year.
“I thought this season was a lot better than last year,” Williamson said. “We had a point to prove this year because they predicted us eighth in the conference. We had a point to prove and I think that we played well.”
Williamson has one more season to play with the Herd in 2013.
“We have goals set for the team and anything less than first place would be unsatisfying,” she said.
Williamson said life in the geographically spread out Conference USA can be a challenge. This season, Marshall flew to UTEP in El Paso, Texas, and also traveled to Orlando, Fla., to play in the Citrus Classic. The Herd also went to the states of South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina and Mississippi.
“It’s very exhausting,” Williamson said of all the travel. “We fly to some and we bus to some. To occupy my time I will watch movies on my ipad. I also do a lot of sleeping.”
Williamson is double majoring in physical education and health and plans on becoming a high school softball coach.
“Hopefully,” she said. “That’s the plan.”
Williamson said her busy spring schedule only allowed her to attend one Chapmanville Regional softball game this season when the Lady Tigers played Lincoln County.
Her brother, former Logan High School basketball standout Paul Williamson, played at WVU this year as a walk-on, creating a strange Green and White and Blue and Gold divide in the household. Paul later left the WVU team after one season.
Andi, though, might have had the edge in the Marshall/WVU rivalry as their dad, Andy Paul, was himself a former Marshall basketball player.
“Paul and I couldn’t catch a break since we were at different schools but I’m going to support him no matter where he’s at. He’s got my back, too,” she said.