Photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
GEORGETOWN, Texas- A week ago, it took a Kaden deBerardinis double to lift the UMHB baseball team to a dramatic 3-2 walk-off victory over Southwestern in Belton. On Tuesday night, it took a similar piece of timely hitting from Tyler Betts, this time at Southwestern’s home field, in the top of the ninth, as the Cru completed a season sweep of the No. 24-ranked Pirates, 8-6.
In Southwestern’s first game as a ranked team in the D3baseball.com Top 25, it was the Crusaders who rallied from a three-run deficit and scored eight of the game’s final 11 runs, making a statement on the road. It marked UMHB’s second win over a Top 25 opponent this season, as the Cru also took down Trinity (TX) on March 28 in San Antonio.
UMHB blew the game wide-open in a spectacular ninth inning, after Southwestern knotted the score at four apiece with a run in the sixth inning. Tyler Betts stepped to the plate, having already tallied two hits on the day, and came through with a third down the right field line, and it proved key.
Betts’ RBI double scored both Staton Dudley and Blake Harmon in thrilling fashion, as a roar erupted from the Crusader dugout in jubilation. The two-bagger made it 6-4, and a sacrifice fly from Rhett Grosz brought Betts home two batters later, after Betts aggressively stole third base. deBerardinis, whom the Pirates intentionally walked following Betts’ double, crossed the plate on Hunter Jones’ infield single to second base with two outs.
Down 8-4, Southwestern mounted a minor rally in the bottom of the final frame, opening the inning with a walk and a single, and eventually pushed two runs across. With two outs and the bases loaded, the pressure on both UMHB reliever Reid Cromie and Southwestern pinch hitter Henry Fisher could be felt within the atmosphere at Rockwell Family Field.
Cromie forced Fisher into a groundout at third base, ending the game, and sealing yet another major midweek win for head coach Mike Stawski’s squad.
But the victory was not achieved without some early adversity.
In the bottom of the first, the Pirates went on a tear offensively, scoring the game’s first three runs. Maxwell Mims doubled in Southwestern’s second at-bat, sending the ball narrowly in fair territory down the left field line. Mims came around to score on the next at-bat, on another hit to left field, interestingly enough. With two outs, Landon Durdin sent a hard-hit ball skipping over the head of Jones, the UMHB first baseman, that led to another run, and the 3-0 lead Southwestern carried into the third inning.
But UMHB was in tune defensively, turning a double play in the second inning, and ending the first on a diving catch by deBerardinis in center field. So it ended up just being a matter of time before the hitting followed suit, and the third inning was that time.
Betts fouled off three pitches with Drake Herrera on first base before driving an opposite-field single into right field that moved Herrera to first and put two runners on when Rhett Grosz stepped up with two outs.
By that time, Betts had stolen second, and a chopper off Grosz’s bat proved too sharp for Southwestern second baseman Tres Organ to field as it bounced off his glove and into right-center field. Organ’s error, combined with UMHB’s well-known aggressive baserunning, scored both Herrera and Betts, while Grosz found his way to second base ahead of the throw from right field.
Jones’ single in the next at-bat tied the score for the first time on the day, and in the fourth inning, UMHB took its first lead. Carson Hagan singled up the middle, then proceeded to steal second base, then third, both on daring headfirst slides into the bag. Elijah Rodriguez brought Hagan home with his lone hit of the day, and just like that, it was 4-3 in favor of the Cru.
UMHB’s victory puts the Cru in a position of momentum with UT-Dallas–sitting in second place in the ASC–coming to Belton for a three-game series beginning Friday night. It will be a pivotal series, considering UMHB needs several more conference victories in order to be in position for an ASC Tournament bid, awarded to the top six teams in the league.
Jones and Betts each tallied three hits on the day, accounting for two-thirds of UMHB’s hit production, as the Cru had 10 hits as a team. Five different pitchers saw action, with Alex Palczewski throwing the longest, with three innings pitched, and zero runs allowed.