Above photo by CJ Halloran/@cjhall_photography
AUSTIN, Texas- In a weather-abbreviated two game series against Concordia (TX), the UMHB baseball team went 1-1, finishing the regular season by winning eight of its last nine games.
The next step? A trip to the ASC Tournament, something that has not happened in program history since 2017.
The Cru enter as the tournament’s No. 5 seed, and will play a rematch of this weekend’s series, facing No. 4 seed Concordia in the first round. That contest is set for May 6 at 11:00 a.m. CT in Richardson, Texas, as the Cru and Tornadoes were selected to the Blue Bracket, hosted by top seed UT Dallas. The tournament features a double-elimination format.
The series saw two schedule changes due to relentless storms that blew across central Texas, delaying the first meeting between the Cru and Tornadoes until Saturday.
It was the first time UMHB head coach Mike Stawski had faced Concordia, and his team lived up to its expectations in game one, winning 8-1.
The bulk of the Cru’s scoring came in the third, as the visitors from Belton pushed five runs across. Second baseman Blake Harmon opened the frame with a double to left center field, and scored the first run of the contest two batters later on a single off the bat of center fielder Dawson Shibley. Shibley, along with shortstop Caimyn Holiday, raced home to widen the margin to 3-0 with one out after first baseman Malek Bolin ripped a double into the left-center field gap with the bases loaded.
The Cru pushed across one run in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, though the contest did not finish until Sunday afternoon.
A doubleheader was scheduled for Saturday, but the two teams failed to complete even the first game due to rain and lightning that occurred while Concordia was at the plate in the sixth.
The contest was suspended and restarted Sunday afternoon, with game two following and the series finale wiped off the slate.
Even an 11-hour delay did not slow the Cru’s performance at the plate, as UMHB added an insurance run off an RBI groundout from left fielder Hunter Jones in the seventh.
In a unique scenario, two starters saw action for the Cru, with Jeb Zolman throwing two innings to open the game before Andrew Acierni came in from the bullpen for three innings. Neither gave up a run, and Zolman allowed just one hit, while Acierni allowed two. Acierni picked up the win to move to 6-2.
Game two had the same score, just a different victor. Concordia won game two on Sunday 8-1, which snapped UMHB’s eight game winning streak.
The Tornadoes set the tone early, when Bret Lieferman swatted a two-run home run off UMHB starter Alex Palczewski in the first.
Stawski used seven pitchers in the nine-inning contest, with Zach Carroll being the only Crusader to throw two innings.
The pitching changes failed to throw Concordia off course, as the hosts sealed the victory in a four-run fifth.
UMHB’s lone run came in the second, when the Cru briefly cut the deficit to 2-1 as Jones scored from third on a sacrifice fly from Harmon to right field.
Jones had at least one hit in both games, going 3-for-7 on the weekend with three RBI. Harmon also hit safely in both contests, including a 2-for-2 performance in game one.