Photo of Izzy Gutierrez by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
MARSHALL, Texas-In the first week of what promises to be a challenging 11-game stretch for the UMHB softball team, the Crusaders picked up four key non-conference victories.
A doubleheader sweep of Illinois Wesleyan, and wins over 17th-ranked Eastern Connecticut State and SUNY Oneonta moved the Cru to 11-6 overall, heading into Tuesday’s doubleheader at No. 4 Texas Lutheran.
Izzy Gutierrez led UMHB’s offensive efforts, as the outfielder from Belton recorded at least one hit in all four wins, including a 3-RBI performance in the 6-2 defeat of Eastern Connecticut State. In fact, she hit safely in all six contests in Marshall, extending her streak to 12 straight games with at least one hit. That dates back to March 3, when her 2-for-3 performance helped UMHB to a game one win at Howard Payne, meaning that in every game played in the month of March, Gutierrez has recorded a hit. The senior was 8-for-20 in the six-game stretch, with 5 RBIs.
She tallied the Cru’s first RBI of the week, singling in the first inning of Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Illinois Wesleyan, as Lexi Harris scored from third. It proved to be half of UMHB’s total run production in the victory, with Lindsey Polleschultz scoring the second run on Bailey Eggleston’s base hit through the left side of the infield in the fourth. Grason Long was terrific in the circle, allowing just three hits as UMHB’s starting pitcher, while striking out five in a complete game effort.
That success shifted into UMHB’s second win over IWU later in the evening, though by a much wider margin. A five-run fourth inning from the Cru gave way to a 5-1 victory over the Titans, as UMHB’s hit total matched its run total, but maximized its scoring opportunities.
Bryton Wright brough a pair of baserunners home on her pinch-hit single up the middle in the fourth, giving the Cru its first lead, 2-1. One batter later, Kyler Sanders doubled, driving two more runs in, and all of a sudden, it was 4-1 in favor of the visitors from Belton. Back-to-back wild pitches then brough Sanders across the plate, capping the explosive inning.
Taking down Eastern Connecticut State was the marquee win of the week, especially after UMHB did not find its name on the March 14 NFCA Top 25 Poll after opening the year ranked 18th. The 6-2 triumph on Thursday afternoon saw Kami Flores pick up her seventh win of the year in the circle, less than 24 hours after tossing a complete game against IWU. She fired five innings of scoreless relief, and struck out four.
UMHB went up 3-0 in the first inning, and added to it, with six hits and a season-high seven stolen bases. Gutierrez and Elissa Elliott each had two hits at the plate.
Long bounced back from a tough start in the eventual win over EConn with a complete game effort in Fridaty’s 8-0 shutout of SUNY Oneonta, striking out seven while allowing just seven baserunners.
It was a sort of bounceback win for the team as a whole, after falling to the Red Dragons, 5-3, in walk-off fashion in the first game of the day. UMHB scored runs in five of the six innings, and pounded out a season-best 15 hits. Wright went 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs and five Crusaders tallied multiple hits.
Long and Flores are the only two pitchers on the roster with at least 10 appearances this season. Long has a 1.90 ERA and a 4-3 record in the circle, while Flores is 7-1, with a 2.53 ERA.