Photo courtesy of UMHB athletics department
BELTON- After suffering two losses to Texas Lutheran, a Top 10 program on Tuesday night, the UMHB softball team responded with a statement in Belton three days later.
With another opportunity against seventh-ranked East Texas Baptist in American Southwest Conference action, the Cru established a pair of early leads, found great success in the circle, and promptly handed the Tigers two losses of their own, improving to 13-8 overall, and 6-2 in league play.
It marked the first time that UMHB defeated ETBU in two consecutive contests, dating back to the first recorded meeting on Feb. 15, 2000.
The opening contest of the three-game series found its storyline in two particular instances.
The first came in the bottom half of the fifth inning, where, with the score knotted at 1-1, UMHB executed the art of “creating” runs. A Grason Long groundout began the inning, but Lexi Harris singled in the next at-bat. Elissa Elliott’s sacrifice bunt moved Harris into scoring position, on second base, before Taylor Holman drove a pitch into the outfield for an RBI double, pushing the go-ahead run across the plate as Harris scored.
The second played out in the top of the seventh when Long, who tossed her sixth complete game of the season, held ETBU scoreless despite a runner in scoring position. With the score still 2-1, and ETBU doing everything in its power to keep its 12-game win streak intact, ETBU’s Mallory Pyle reached on an error in the first at-bat of the inning. She stole second base a minute later, and with just one out, the pressure sat squarely on Long’s shoulders. She delivered in a spectacular finish, inducing a flyout to center field, before striking out Sydney Green looking for the game’s final out.
Long held ETBU to just two hits, an unprecedented performance this season. Entering Friday’s duel, the fewest hits the Tigers had been held to was four, in a March 3 win over Concordia (TX). By comparison, against No. 17 Eastern Conecticut State a week ago, ETBU tallied 10 hits. Long struck out five batters, walked just two, and is now 5-4 this season.
Holman, who entered the game as a pinch hitter before moving to right field, went 2-for-2 with a run scored, having contributed to both of UMHB’s runs in the win.
UMHB carried the momentum from game one into game two, which gave way to a dominant effort and an 8-2 victory. The Cru tallied 14 hits in the contest, and led from start to finish after taking a 2-0 lead through the first inning. Elliott’s first-inning triple scored Lexi Harris and Izzy Gutierrez scored Elliott on a sacrifice flyout in the following at-bat.
That set the tone, and another strong pitching performance led the way. Kami Flores, much like Long earlier in the day, made quick work of the ETBU lineup, holding the Tigers to a mere four hits and just two runs, while striking out six.
Harris went 3-for-4 from the leadoff spot, scoring two runs, and Holman came through once again, this time pushing two runners across on a fielder’s choice in the fifth inning. That made it 5-0, and Holman went 1-for-4 at the plate. Elliott was 3-for-3, with three runs scored, and Lindsey Polleschultz went 2-for-2 as the starting shortstop.
UMHB and ETBU return to Belton’s Dee Dillon Field on Saturday for the series finale at 12 p.m.