Photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON- What has already been an incredibly successful season became historic on Saturday afternoon, as the 15th-ranked UMHB softball team emerged victorious in the regular season finale, claiming the program’s first American Southwest Conference regular season title.
The series win means UMHB will host the ASC Tournament next week, opening the postseason at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday in Belton. It marks the first time in program history that the Crusaders have hosted the conference tournament.
Game 1: UMHB, 8, Concordia, 0 (6 innings)
Grason Long tossed a one-hitter for UMHB in yet another strong performance in the circle, as the Cru tallied its 11th shutout of the season. Long struck out four and walked two, facing 22 batters in the six inning contest.
Though Concordia starter Delaney Loos retired the first three UMHB batters in order, the Crusaders responded in the second, with four hits leading to two runs. Julia Crofut’s base hit with two outs allowed Elissa Elliott to advance to third, then score on an error, taking the lead. Allyse Castillo followed with an RBI single of her own, putting UMHB in front, 2-0.
UMHB scored five runs between the second and fourth innings, before gaining the eventual eight-run lead in the sixth. Bailey Eggleston’s single notched a run-rule win, as Blane Simmons and Lindsey Polleschultz both scored for an 8-0 lead. UMHB tallied five hits in the inning and Concordia did not record a single out.
Top hitters: Lexi Harris (2-for-4, 2 runs), Bailey Eggleston (2-for-4, 3 RBIs), Lindsey Polleschultz (1-for-3, 2 runs, 2 RBIs)
W: Grason Long, UMHB (12-4)
L: Delaney Loos, CTX (6-3)
Game 2: Concordia, 7, UMHB, 1
Concordia snapped UMHB’s 14-game win streak in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, jumping out to a four-run lead in the first inning. The Cru scored just one run in a game for the first time since a March 21 loss at Texas Lutheran.
While UMHB starter Kami Flores allowed four runs in just one inning in the circle, none of those were earned runs. Two errors against the Cru allowed all four baserunners to cross the plate, including a wild play in which Megan Hooper’s two-out double cleared the bases for Concordia, as three runners scored as the result of an error charged to second baseman Elissa Elliott.
UMHB had five hits, but did not score in the game’s first five innings before Elliott’s RBI single that scored Wright from third base. Few scoring opportunities even came UMHB’s way, though back-to-back walks in the fifth with one out yielded optimism. But a lineout and a pop out–both to Concordia shortstop Emma Chavez–ended the inning.
Top hitters: Elissa Elliott (1-for-3, RBI)
W: Caitlyn Rang, CTX (5-7)
L: Kami Flores, UMHB (15-4)
Game 3: UMHB, 6, Concordia, 2
As a result of Friday’s game two loss, and second-place ETBU’s simultaneous series sweep of Sul Ross State, there was plenty on the line when the Cru and Tornadoes battled on Saturday afternoon. With a win, UMHB would win both the ASC regular season title and the hosting rights for next week’s ASC Tournament.
The Crusaders did just that, earning a four-run victory and the program’s first ASC regular season title, behind 13 hits and 6.2 scoreless innings from Grason Long.
UMHB opened the contest with a statement, as Lexi Harris tripled to right-center field in the Cru’s first at-bat, and Lindsey Polleschulz followed with a perfectly-placed bunt down the third-base line. Harris scored UMHB’s first run, stealing home when Concordia catcher Nadia Lopez attempted to throw out Polleschultz, who stole second.
Bailey Eggleston’s single up the middle soon scored Polleschultz, followed by Elissa Elliott’s RBI base hit to left field. With UMHB up 3-0 after the opening inning, Concordia broke its end-inning huddle with a unified chant of “take it back”, referencing taking the lead back from the Cru.
The Tornadoes nearly did too, putting runners on second and third base with one out in the top of the second. But Long came up with one of the game’s key defensive plays, catching a bunt in the air for the inning’s second out, just moments before she spun and fired the ball straight to third base, completing the double play before Concordia’s Emily Moses slid back into third.
Taylor Holman’s double to left-center field gave UMHB momentum once again, eventually leading to Bryton Wright’s RBI single that scored both Blakely Niles and Holman, as the high-arcing fly ball was dropped in shallow right field. It gave the Cru a 6-0 lead.
A bases-loaded single from Cristina Aya put Concordia on the board in the sixth, but a 4-6-3 double play in the following at-bat ended the inning before any additional damage was done.
Concordia did not record a hit in the seventh inning, as Elliott’s diving catch of a shallow popup at second base, ended the contest, and sealed the win.
Top hitters: Lindsey Polleschultz (3-for-4, run), Blakely Niles (3-for-3, run), Taylor Holman (2-for-3, run)
W: Grason Long, UMHB (13-4)
L: Krista Burg, CTX (5-6)