Above photo provided by the UMHB Athletics Department
ABILENE, Texas- For the third straight weekend, the UMHB softball team earned a series win, defeating McMurry two games to one in Abilene.
The weekend performance moved UMHB to 19-12 on the season and 13-8 in ASC play, while McMurry dropped to 13-8 in conference play and 17-9 overall. The Cru and Warhawks are now tied for second place in the West Division.
UMHB was led in the circle by Bayleigh Grogan, who started two games. She fired a total of 14.0 innings, giving up four earned runs, and struck out six.
Offensively, outfielder Taylor Holman went 5-for-9, and was the only Crusader to record a hit in all three contests.
The Cru allowed just a single run in both games of the doubleheader on Friday, winning the series opener 5-1, before a pitcher’s duel dominated game two, with UMHB earning a 2-1 victory.
Grogan, the Cru’s tireless workhorse on the mound, notched her 12th win of the season in game one, battling 18 mile-per-hour winds while in the circle. The sophomore fired a complete game, and allowed just one earned run, despite nine hits.
UMHB actually had one less hit than McMurry with eight, but never trailed after a three-run first inning.
A solid at-bat from shortstop Milly Cesare opened the Cru’s scoring the opening frame, as she drove a 3-2 pitch to left field, and scored center fielder Lexi Harris from first. Cesare crossed the plate two batters later, tagging on a long sacrifice fly from Bailey Wagner. A double off the bat of Holman pushed the Cru’s third run of the inning, as the right fielder hit a double to the right-center field gap that scored second baseman Elissa Elliott.
McMurry scored its only run of the contest in the bottom of the first, but that was as close as the Warhawks got. Elliott added two insurance runs for the Cru in the top of the second, pushing two across the plate on a hard-hit single to left-center field.
The offense did not come until the sixth inning in game two, as a pitcher’s duel featured a combined three hits through the first five frames.
McMurry’s Kinleigh Stotts and UMHB’s Camryn Rucker duked it out through all seven innings, with Rucker tallying her second win of the season to move to 2-1.
Rucker gave up just three hits and run in the complete game performance, walking just three and striking out three.
The Cru had just two hits entering the top of the sixth, with the score tied at zero. That changed on one swing of the bat, as consecutive two-out singles put Holman and Bailey Eggleston on first and second. A passed ball advanced the runners into scoring position, before Tatum Stover connected on a pitch, driving the ball through the right side of the infield and scoring both runners.
That was the only offense the Cru needed, though McMurry cut the lead to one on an RBI single from Kasey Woolard with two outs in the bottom of the inning.
The game two win clinched the series victory for UMHB, and kept the Cru tied with Concordia (TX) for first place in the west division.
UMHB nearly completed the sweep in Saturday’s series finale, but came up short, 7-6. It was not for lack of effort, but the highest-scoring game of the series was decided by McMurry’s five-run fifth inning, that put the Warhawks in front 7-5.
UMHB opened the game with a three-run homer from Wagner in the first to take a 3-0 advantage. McMurry countered with one run in both the first and third, but a two-run fourth for the Cru extended the lead to 5-2.
The tide turned in the fifth, as the Warhawks sent eight batters to the plate. Five hits resulted in five runs, three of those coming on a home run off the bat of Jessika Truax. The homer gave McMurry its first lead of the contest, 7-5, and was enough to hold off UMHB.
Grogan returned to the circle for her second start of the series, again firing a complete game. She allowed seven runs, but just three were charged to her stat line. The sophomore did not walk a batter, but gave up 12 hits.
The Cru batters also faced a familiar arm, as Stotts started the series finale. She allowed 11 hits, two walks and four earned runs.
UMHB resumes ASC play next weekend in Belton against Hardin-Simmons.