Photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
BELTON-Grason Long made history on Friday afternoon at Dee Dillon Field.
Underneath a clear blue sky, Long served up strikeout after strikeout, sending the University of Ozarks down in order inning after inning. The senior pitcher was perfect in the circle, successfully etching her name into the record books with the sixth no-hitter in UMHB history (that number includes the lone perfect game in UMHB history in addition to the four previous no-hitters recorded).
The result came easily with Long’s superior pitching performance, as the Crusaders moved to 22-9 overall in a five-inning, 9-0 shutout over the Eagles.
No batter from Ozarks seemed to challenge Long in the slightest, as the native of Corrigan, Texas, induced a popout to shortstop Lindsey Polleschultz and a lineout to Allyse Castillo in the opening at-bats of the first inning. She then struck out Gracie Jones, sending UMHB’s batters to the plate.
A walk from Lexi Harris and a Blane Simmons single followed by an RBI double from Julia Crofut gave UMHB an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. As it turned out, it was the only lead the Cru needed.
Long fanned the first two Ozarks batters she faced in the top of the second, and then two more in the third. In the fourth, the right-hander struck out the side, fully on pace for the no-hitter. In fact, the only time Ozarks reached base came with one out in the fifth, as Kaylyn Soria reached base on an error credited to Long.
But the game ended in the next at-bat, as Castillo took a groundball at third, fired it to Elissa Elliott at second base, and then to Crofut at first, completing a flawless double play. With UMHB’s nine-run lead, a run-rule came into effect, ending the contest after five innings, and putting Long into a group of just three other Crusaders to have tossed a no-hitter.
Haley Parker threw the last no-hitter in program history, when she blanked Sul Ross State on April 18, 2015, in an 11-0 win. That contest also spanned just five innings, and impressively, Parker threw the first three innings of the second game of the doubleheader on that afternoon as well, allowing just one hit.
Entering Friday’s matchup, Long ranked No. 1 amongst pitchers in the American Southwest Conference in opponent batting average (.188) and innings pitched (97.0), while her 97 strikeouts ranked No. 2. She is 10-4 overall in the circle.