Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True to The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
BELTON- In a competitive series against the ASC’s first-place team, UMHB remained in step with ETBU, and claimed a one-run victory in the series finale on Saturday afternoon.
The Crusaders are now 14-12 overall, 8-10 in ASC play, with 14 games left on the schedule.
ETBU, who entered the series with 37 home runs, the highest mark in the nation, did not send a pitch over the outfield wall at Red Murff Field for the first seven innings in game one on Friday night. But in the eighth, that changed.
Entering the eighth, the battle between UMHB and ETBU was either team’s game, tied at two apiece. But four singles in the first five batters allowed the Tigers a 4-2 lead. Then Wes Kelley delivered the hit that sealed ETBU’s victory. With the bases loaded, the right fielder, who entered the at-bat 2-for-4, connected on a grand slam, bringing four runs across, tripling the lead in a matter of seconds.
A late rally from UMHB saw Drake Herrera and Kaden deBerardinis record consecutive base hits in the ninth, the latter of which cut the ETBU lead to five runs as Sam Mungia scored after walking to begin the inning. But it was not enough, giving the Tigers their 17th ASC win of the year.
The Tigers came back on Saturday to take the series, winning game two by a much closer 5-3 result. ETBU never trailed, taking a 1-0 lead in the second, and added three more in the fourth.
But the Crusaders did not allow ETBU to escape Belton without suffering a loss. In the series finale, UMHB pulled out a 7-6 victory, behind a 3-for-4 performance from shortstop Caimyn Holiday. Holiday brought Ryan Farmer home on a single in the first, and the Cru did not look back. It was 3-0 before the Tigers pushed their first run across in the fourth, and despite five runs over the fourth and fifth innings, UMHB held off ETBU’s charge. A three-run seventh for the Cru put UMHB back on top, as Zack Honey closed out the game on the mound.
Trevor Ripke picked up the win, his fourth of the year, while Honey contributed with the save in 1.1 innings of scoreless work.
Before UMHB takes a six-day break in its schedule, here is a closer look at how the series unfolded:
Difference in game three? UMHB took advantage of opportunities with runners on base: ETBU’s high-powered hitting was a major factor in the Tigers’ success. In fact, in all three contests, the visitors from Marshall had at least two more hits than the Cru. But in game three, UMHB stranded just six runners on base to ETBU’s 10, and seven of the 11 Crusaders who reached second base scored.
The bullpen was solid: The starting pitching struggled in various ways against ETBU’s strong lineup, but UMHB’s relievers pitched well in the late innings. Chris Dubois finished the series opener with his second straight no-hit outing, and Honey forced three flyouts in the ninth inning of game two. Ripke, who allowed six runs in game one, came back on Saturday with just one run in 2.2 innings. Honey picked up the save in 1.1 innings of scoreless work in game three.
Stolen bases again played a key role in the scoring: UMHB stole six bases in a game for the third time this season, as the Crusaders earned the game three win. Aggressive base running helped turn singles into runs, as Holiday led the way with two, and four other players had one each. Also alert on the basepaths, all four of ETBU’s errors led to runs for UMHB.
UMHB hosts Concordia (TX) in a three-game series beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday. Saturday’s doubleheader in Belton is set for 1 p.m, and the Tornadoes are 11-13 on the year. In conference play, Concordia is 10-8.