DOWN GOES NO. 1! UMHB softball wins game two of doubleheader over top-ranked Texas Lutheran

Photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru

BELTON- There are few things a team desires more than defeating the nation’s best. Especially when that team is unranked, as the UMHB softball team was entering Wednesday’s doubleheader against the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs of Texas Lutheran. 

Despite the odds, the Crusaders, “playing with nothing to lose”, as head coach Melissa Mojica summarized it, emerged victorious, 3-1, in game two of the doubleheader, becoming just the third team to take down TLU this season. 

It is only the beginning of what promises to be a challenging next three weeks of ASC play, and as Mojica said postgame, facing the nation’s best prepares the Crusaders for anyone else’s best. 

“Playing TLU is going to help prepare us for what we have ahead of us the next three weeks,” Mojica said, noting her squad faces UTD on the road this weekend, followed by ASC series against Belhaven and fourth-ranked ETBU in the weeks that follow. “It gives us that confidence that if we can beat the No. 1 team, we can beat anybody else if we play a good, clean game.”

TLU, a regular on UMHB’s non-conference schedule, is not only a quality booster to the Cru’s strength of schedule. The regular duels between the programs gives Mojica’s squad a look, year in and year out, of what Top 10 competition looks like, which is critical in the continued building of this program within a challenging conference that regularly features at least one, often two, Top 25 teams. 

“TLU will always be on our schedule,” Mojica added. “They’ve been in the Top 10 in the country for probably the past 10 years. They’re a team that we’ll continue to face no matter what the outcomes are, because that’s who we need to be playing. In order for us to be one of those teams, we have to be able to play with those teams.” 

The Cru dropped game one, 9-1, early in the afternoon, as the Bulldogs capitalized on a few key opportunities at the plate, tallying five doubles. But less than 30 minutes later, UMHB came back and reversed the script, playing a near-perfect contest, led by the complete-game performance of starting pitcher Rachel Williams in the circle. 

Williams, a graduate transfer from D-I Tarleton State, earned her seventh victory of the season, limiting the Bulldog lineup to just five hits, while throwing a high percentage of strikes. She walked just one batter, and only one run came across the plate in the seven-inning contest, which gave UMHB’s lineup time to find a rhythm at the plate. 

TLU got on the board first, on Casey Martin’s two-out RBI single in the third inning. But one inning later, UMHB took charge. A wild play with one out in the fourth ended with pinch runner Kennedy Kalka stealing home, much to the delight of the vocal crowd of 210, and tied the score at one apiece. One batter later, however, that tie was broken as designated hitter Julia Crofut, facing her former team, sent a pitch far over the right-field wall. The home run, her second of the season, also scored Elissa Elliott, who had singled just two batters earlier, putting UMHB up 3-1. 

Three more innings of flawless work from Williams saw TLU record just three hits, and the Bulldogs pushed just one baserunner past second base, as UMHB held on for the victory. 

With UMHB softball becoming one of just two teams on campus over the last several years to defeat the nation’s top-ranked program, here’s a closer look at Wednesday’s game two win: 

The Positives

Exceptional infield play: The Crusaders did not tally a single error in game two, and had just one in the opening game of the doubleheader. That was in large part a credit to the play of UMHB’s infield, who made a number of quick decisions, especially in the late innings, that kept TLU from countering. One prime example came in the top of the fifth, when the Bulldogs had runners on second and third with just one out, trailing 3-1. TLU’s Kylee Jack hit a sharp ground ball towards UMHB third baseman Elisabeth Paul, who promptly fielded it and fired the ball to catcher Blakely Niles, who tagged out the runner charging from third. Making that tough play, rather than throwing to first for an easier out, resulted in a fourth scoreless frame for TLU at that point.

Williams’ pitching: As Mojica noted postgame, Williams had been solid for the majority of the year, but struggled at times as she reached the fifth and sixth innings of games. Not on Wednesday. She tossed a complete game for the third time in 2022, and the one walk on her stat line was evidence of her tremendous control in the circle. And that was against a team that had the fifth-most hits in D-III entering the doubleheader. 

Up Next

UMHB, having won 12 of its last 14, faces UT-Dallas in a three-game series in Richardson, Texas, this weekend. The Comets, 15-2, share many similarities to TLU’s offensive style, yet another reason why Wednesday’s games will serve UMHB well moving forwards. Friday’s doubleheader begins at 3 p.m. followed by a single game at noon on Saturday. 

Mojica: “We have UTD, who is playing well, this weekend. They’re going to be similar to TLU with slapping the ball and good baserunning. They’re just a well-coached team.”

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