Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
MARSHALL, Texas- In an unforgiving stretch of the conference schedule, facing Top 10 teams on consecutive weekends, the UMHB softball team showed few signs of fatigue.
Instead, the Crusaders went toe-to-toe with the nation’s seventh-ranked team, ETBU, on the road, and pulled out a shutout victory on Friday evening, finishing the weekend fourth in the ASC standings.
The series began with a less-than-favorable start for the Cru, who fell 5-0 in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader. ETBU backed up its high national ranking as starting pitcher Hannah Kelly came through with a complete-game shutout, limiting UMHB to just four hits and a single walk. Naturally, it made runs hard to come by for the Crusaders, while the Tigers broke a 0-0 tie in the third inning, pushing two runs across. Two more runs crossed the plate in the fourth on Tristen Maddox’s hard-hit double to right center field with two outs.
UMHB had a counter opportunity in the fifth, when Tatum Stover lined a double down the right-field line with just one out. A flyout moved Kennedy Kalka, pinch-running for Stover, to third base, but one of Kelly’s four strikeouts on the day ended the frame. Then in the sixth, with runners on first and third and two outs, Kylie Green left first base before the pitch, resulting in the third out, and another empty inning.
But in game two, there were few missed opportunities. The roles were reversed, as UMHB defeated ETBU 3-0 for the Crusaders’ third Top 10 victory over the year. The hitting was limited to five hits, but the difference came in Rachel Williams’ performance in the circle. The Tarleton State transfer, who also pitched a complete game against top-ranked Texas Lutheran, fired all 7.0 innings, moving to 10-2 on the year. She allowed seven hits, but repeatedly found a way out of jams, even down to the final out.
One out away from claiming the shutout victory, ETBU’s Lorena Ramirez singled, loading the bases, and bringing the potential winning run to the plate. But Williams forced a flyout to left field, completing the complete-game victory and giving UMHB momentum for Saturday’s series finale.
But it also gave the Tigers a reason to regain their offensive rhythm in Saturday’s series finale. ETBU put up six runs in the first inning, and while UMHB chipped away with a run in both the fourth and fifth innings, it was too great a deficit. Highlighting the Crusaders at the plate was Julia Crofut, who went 2-for-4, notable considering UMHB managed just five hits.
Before looking ahead, here is a closer look at how the road series played out in Marshall:
Stover’s success at the plate: Stover, who started all three games at first base, was the only Crusader who tallied at least one hit in each of the contests, going a combined 4-for-8, with two of UMHB’s three doubles during the series. The Forney, Texas native tied her season-high for hits in a game (2), in the 3-0 win over the Tigers.
Shutout was just the second of the year for ETBU: With UMHB’s 3-0 shutout of the Tigers on Friday, it marked just the second time this season that the nation’s seventh-ranked team had been shutout. It was also just the third shutout victory of the season for the Cru, who walked just one ETBU batter. That was notable considering the Tigers had drawn nine walks over their four games entering the series.
Williams’ performance in the circle: After taking the loss in her last start, Williams rebounded exceptionally. ETBU, known for its high run production at the plate, failed to catch up to the timing of Williams’ pitches, and while the Tigers managed seven hits, still the third-lowest mark of the year for the team, not one of those resulted in a run. She lowered her ERA to 2.97, after coming in as reliever on Saturday, firing 1.1 innings with just two hits allowed and one run that was not earned.
The Cru travels to Austin for a doubleheader at Concordia (TX) on Friday as ASC play continues. The Tornadoes are 11-14 overall, 8-10 in ASC play. UMHB comes off the weekend 19-9 overall, and 12-6 in conference action.