Above photo provided by the UMHB Athletics Department
BELTON, Texas- On the last week of the regular season, the UMHB softball team claimed the West Division title, sweeping Concordia (TX) in three games.
Friday’s doubleheader was not played at home, due to the threat of rain, and moved to Lake Belton High School which boasts a quality turf field. It did not affect the Cru’s ability to perform, as UMHB won game one handily, 7-1.
Besides a wild pitch in the third that allowed Concordia to score its only run of the contest, UMHB starter Bayleigh Grogan had little trouble commanding the strike zone. The Wimberly, Texas native moved to 15-8 on the season after she fired a complete game, and allowed six hits, one walk and struck out three.
The Crusader bats lit up the scoreboard in the fifth, pushing across four runs that added to a 2-1 lead. Bailey Wagner opened the frame with a base hit to left field, and scored on the very next play when Bailey Eggleston bunted. The throw to first base was off target, allowing Eggleston to advance to third and Wagner to score. A fielder’s choice scored Eggleston one batter later and Izzy Gutierrez crossed the plate on a wild pitch to extend the lead to 5-1. Lexi Harris’ two-out double brought the fourth run of the inning across, as UMHB sealed the victory.
The Cru was victorious by a score of 4-3 in game two, with six of the contest’s seven runs scored in the fourth.
After the Tornadoes went up 3-0 in the top of the fourth, UMHB countered with three of its own, tying the score on a single from Milly Cesare with the bases loaded.
Cesare displayed an excellent piece of two-out hitting, and lofted a high popup to left center that fell just before the glove of Concordia’s Ashley Hallmark, playing center field.
Elisabeth Paul came up with perhaps the biggest hit of the day, when the third baseman worked the count to 3-2 before she drove the payoff pitch opposite field into right. She beat the throw to second, tallying a RBI double to put UMHB in the lead, 4-3.
UMHB starter Camryn Rucker pitched a complete game, and did not walk a single batter. She had five hits, three earned runs and two strikeouts, the last of which came with two outs in the seventh, as the Cru clinched the West Division title.
The series finale was just icing on the cake, as UMHB defeated Concordia for the third straight time, sweeping the series with a 9-5 win to end the regular season.
UMHB head coach Melissa Mojica used three different pitchers to seal the victory, as Rucker, Grogan, and Jules Martinez each threw at least one inning. It was a fitting way for Rucker and Martinez to close out their final home game in Belton.
Rucker earned the start, and fired 3.2 innings with four hits, one walk and four earned runs. Martinez came in to relieve Rucker, and tallied the win, as she tossed 1.1 scoreless innings. Grogan closed out the contest with two solid innings of work, giving up just one hit, zero walks, and no earned runs.
The bats were just as critical as the performances in the circle, as UMHB capitalized on an eight-run fifth. Concordia had no answer, as a pitching change midway through did little to stop the onslaught.
14 batters stepped to the plate in the fifth inning alone, as the Cru went from trailing 4-1 to leading 9-4. The offensive outburst was highlighted by center fielder Lexi Harris’s double down the right field line that scored right fielder Alyssa Bates, tying the score at four with no outs. Shortstop Milly Cesare hit into a fielder’s choice in the following at bat, but it allowed catcher Tyeann Johnson to cross the plate and put the Crusaders in front.
The four additional insurance runs sealed the sweep, as UMHB now looks ahead to next week’s ASC Tournament.
Set to be held in Clinton, Mississippi on the campus of top-seeded Belhaven, UMHB enters at the No. 1 seed in the West, and has a bye on day one. The Cru’s first game of the tournament is set for Friday at 1 p.m. CT against the winner of Thursday’s matchup between ETBU and LeTourneau/Sul Ross State. LeTourneau and SRSU are set to play earlier in the day. The tournament is single-elimination for the first round, but becomes double-elimination starting on day two.