Above photo by CJ Halloran/@cjhall_photography
BROWNWOOD, Texas- All three games were decided by two runs or less, but the UMHB baseball team thrived the close contests, and earned a 2-1 series win over ASC foe Howard Payne this weekend at Don Shepard Park.
The result of the series keeps the Cru even at .500 on the year with an overall record of 13-13. UMHB is now 6-9 in ASC play, having won its last two series. The Crusaders went 2-2 on the week, having fallen to top-ranked Trinity in non-conference action on Tuesday.
The bats for both teams got going early, as Friday’s duel saw a combined 27 hits and 19 runs. The Cru earned a 10-9 victory, but needed single runs in both the eighth and ninth innings to get the job done.
After UMHB went up 4-0 in the top of the first, the Yellow Jackets countered with three of their own. By the third inning, 11 runs had crossed the plate, with HPU leading 6-5 after two runs crossed the plate on a single to center field.
Only the fifth and seventh innings saw neither team score, and as UMHB reliever Zack Honey struck out HPU’s Anthony Cook to conclude the seventh, the score was knotted at eight apiece.
It did not take long for the visitors from Belton to change that, as three walks to begin the eighth put third baseman Rhett Grosz on third base. Grosz was thrown out on a fielder’s choice, but second baseman Blake Harmon advanced to third on the play. Shortstop Caimyn Holiday lofted a long fly ball to left field in the following at bat, as Harmon tagged and scored from third.
The Cru added an insurance run on an RBI single from Hunter Jones in the ninth, and it proved to be the difference, as HPU pushed one across in the ninth on a sacrifice fly. That was all the Yellow Jackets mustered in the final frame, with UMHB reliever Trevor Ripke inducing a strikeout and flyout to end the game.
Saturday’s doubleheader followed the same pattern, and game two had the same result, with UMHB winning 7-5.
The Cru again raced out to a multi-run lead, scoring two in the top of the first. That advantage grew to 3-0 in the second, before HPU rattled off five runs between the third and fourth innings to gain its first lead of the contest, 5-3. Battling from behind, the Crusaders used RBI doubles from Holiday and first baseman Malek Bolin to post a three-run fifth.
The doubles tied the score, but a sac fly from right fielder Mateo Calle provided the go-ahead run, as UMHB scored five unanswered and defeated HPU in the seven-run contest.
Possibly due to fatigue, but more likely due to HPU’s four-run eighth, UMHB dropped the series finale by the slightest of margins, 5-4.
Like in the previous two contests, UMHB scored first, as catcher Daylon Nebgen singled home a pair of runs to give the Cru a 2-0 lead.
But unlike in the first two games, those runs did not come until the sixth inning, as the pitching dominated for the first five frames.
Though the Cru went up 3-1 entering the bottom of the eighth, it was not enough, as the floodgates opened and the Yellow Jackets began clicking at the plate. With a 5-3 lead, there was little the Cru could do but make of the most of its last opportunity.
Designated hitter Hunter McQuary singled to right field, scoring right fielder Kaden deBerardinis, but that was as close as UMHB got.
Hitting played a critical role in UMHB’s series victory, as the Cru tallied 33 hits over three games. Bolin stood out at the plate, as he solified his spot as UMHB’s cleanup hitter. The first baseman was 7-for-13 on the series, with three runs and five RBI.
The Cru also looked good on the basepaths, stealing a total of eight bases in the series’ final two games.
UMHB returns to action with a four-game homestand, and is set to face SCAC opponent Texas Lutheran Tuesday, before playing its final home games of the season in a three-game set against McMurry on Friday and Saturday.