Above photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
MARSHALL, Texas- A day that began with one of the UMHB baseball team’s most lopsided losses of the season ended in a run-rule victory for the Cru, simultaneously breaking the program record for postseason wins in a season (2) during its time as a D-III program.
ETBU took it to the Cru in the first game of the day, but in an elimination contest against McMurry on Saturday night, the UMHB bats paved the way to a 10-0 victory, marking the Crusaders’ second victory in this year’s ASC Tournament.
“I was proud of the way the guys responded,” UMHB head coach Mike Stawski said of the turnaround between the Cru’s two games on Saturday. “We didn’t just get punched in the mouth, we got laid out on the floor.
“However, the guys picked themselves up and decided to do the same exact thing to their opponent. We had energy from the first pitch and that confidence that we were going to win was back.”
How it played out: Game 1 vs ETBU
The ASC’s top hitting team, the Tigers stepped to the plate with confidence and turned out a three-run first inning followed by a five-run second as ETBU took control and did not look back. UMHB was held to just two hits, shutout by ETBU starting pitcher Sayers Collins, who struck out seven in eight innings.
With the 8-0 lead, Wes Kelly homered for the Tigers in the seventh, before the victory was clinched when Jake Miller sprinted home on a wild pitch, diving headfirst to avoid the throw from catcher Warren Sammons, who was near the backstop.
Playing in front of its home crowd, ETBU has won five of its last six games.
How it played out: Game 2 vs McMurry
After being shutout against ETBU, the Crusaders returned the favor in the elimination game that followed against McMurry. With their backs against the wall, UMHB excelled, breaking a 0-0 tie in the third on Robert McCall’s two-run homer that barely cleared the outfield wall in left-center field.
But they were not done there. The Crusaders added to the lead in a six-run fifth inning, tallying seven hits as McMurry starter Nick Hamel was knocked out of the game. It began the way so many of UMHB’s successful innings have this season, with Caimyn Holiday singling and immediately stealing second base. Bolin promptly drove him home and Bolin soon scored as well, on Ryan Farmer’s base hit. A Rhett Grosz double then pushed both Farmer and McCall, who had singled, across the plate, before Sam Mungia raced home on a passed ball. Taking advantage of the opportunities presented, and stringing together base hits, all nine UMHB batters stepped to the plate in the fifth, as McMurry was buried into too deep a hole for the Warhawks to overcome.
The run-rule was secured in the seventh, when Grosz dove headfirst for a 9-0 lead on Kaden deBerardinis’ base hit to right field, which was followed by a Drake Herrera double in the next at-bat. Herrera’s high fly ball towards center field initially appeared to be an out, but McMurry center fielder Koy Carpenter dropped it as he hit the grass, allowing Mungia to score.
Nicklas Fenner was equally key in the Cru’s shutout, tirelessly working on the mound as pitching was limited due to the previous two tournament contests. The freshman pitched like an upperclassman, maintaining a healthy dose of confidence as he tallied five strikeouts, allowing just three hits and a single walk in 23 batters faced and seven complete innings. It mirrored the success he had in his first outing against McMurry on Feb. 19, but there was one stark difference: in February, he picked up the loss,on Saturday he came away with the win.
“He picked a really good time to have his best outing of the year,” Stawski said of Fenner. “I can’t say I’m shocked by the outing, Nick had that in him. He trusted his stuff today, was not afraid to win in the zone, and allowed his defense to play behind him. He did everything we asked of him and it paid off big time.”
UMHB enters into a decisive duel with ETBU on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Marshall. If UMHB wins, it forces a second contest between the opponents that evening. If ETBU wins game one, the Tigers advance to the ASC Tournament championship series.