Photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON- For the McMurry softball team, adversity has been taken in stride for much of the 2023 season, according to head coach David McNally.
The Warhawks put that fact on full display for the large pro-UMHB crowd in Thursday night’s ASC Tournament duel, battling back from a 3-1 deficit in the seventh inning, as No. 4 seed McMurry scored six runs, and earned a 7-3 victory over top-seeded UMHB.
The win put McMurry into a winner’s bracket contest against second-seeded ETBU at 3 p.m. on Friday, while UMHB will face elimination in a 12:30 p.m. contest against No. 6 seed UT-Dallas. The Warhawks’ victory over the Cru was the second of the day for McMurry, who had previously escaped from a bases-loaded jam in the final inning of a 4-2 win over Hardin-Simmons.
“Mary Hardin-Baylor and Hardin-Simmons both play dang good,” McNally said postgame. “If anything, I just thought we wanted this, and we wanted it bad. Like I’ve said before, the pitchers on that staff [for UMHB], I think they’re the best in the conference. Simple as that. What we did was we hung around enough, until we started figuring it out.”
UMHB held the Warhawks at bay for the game’s first six innings, as Grason Long opened the contest with three straight no-hit innings. An RBI single from Blakely Niles, and Julia Crofut’s two-run base hit just past the outstretched glove of McMurry second baseman Trista Brown in the third inning, gave UMHB a 3-0 lead.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, the Warhawks erased the no-hitter and shutout in one swift swing of the bat. McMurry’s Bre Barajas sent a home run down the left field line, as it hit the foul pole in mid-flight. Barajas’ solo homer cut into the Crusader advantage, but the score stayed that way until the seventh.
And with its back against the wall, McMurry responded in statement fashion. With Kami Flores pitching for the Cru, the Warhawks opened the inning with two singles and an error, loading the bases with no outs. Angelica Abila’s perfectly-placed bunt in the following at-bat allowed Brianna Mart–running full speed–to cross the plate standing up, while Abila beat out the throw from Niles at first base.
“We deal really well with adversity,” McNally noted. “If we can keep the game close and play seven innings, we have a good shot. We have a good pitching staff, and we have some good hitters who stepped up in the end.”
Brown scored two batters later on an error that knotted the game at three runs apiece. Julia Crofut briefly gave the Crusaders momentum, as she threw out Abila at home after fielding a ground ball at first base, preventing the go-ahead run from scoring.
It was the sort of play UMHB needed. Elissa Elliott–UMHB’s second baseman–nearly followed suit in the following at-bat, firing the ball home in an attempted force out after a ball was hit her way, but home plate umpire Larry Morgan called Jesse Stephenson safe in an intensely close play at the plate. One batter later, Mercedes Camacho’s triple down the right field line came within inches, it seemed, of being foul, but stayed just inside the line as three runs scored, adding to McMurry’s lead.
Taylor Holman opened the bottom of the seventh with a triple for the Cru, bringing momentum back to the hosts. However, Holman was called out in a controversial play while tagging from third base on Niles’ high fly ball to left-center field, as it was ruled she did not touch home plate. UMHB was held scoreless in the final inning, with Holman’s triple being the last hit of the day for the Cru.
UMHB now looks ahead to its matchup against UTD. With a win there, the Crusaders would play the winner of Hardin-Simmons/LeTourneau in a 5:30 p.m. elimination game tomorrow. UMHB swept UTD in Richardson in an April 14-15 series earlier this season.
UMHB top hitters: Izzy Gutierrez (3-for-4), Elissa Elliott (2-for-4), Taylor Holman (2-for-4), Julia Crofut (1-for-4, 2 RBI)
W: Baylee Fulps, McMurry (6-4): 4.2 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
L: Kami Flores, UMHB (15-5): 1.0 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K