Photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON- In the press conference following her team’s 6-1 win over UT-Dallas earlier on Friday, UMHB head coach Melissa Mojica spoke about the evening’s matchup with LeTourneau as being an “extension of the day”.
It turned out to be a somewhat brief extension, as UMHB run-ruled the Yellowjackets in five innings by a score of 8-0, thus setting up a rematch with McMurry on Saturday. The Cru outscored its two opponents on Friday by a combined 14-1.
UMHB’s victory eliminated LeTourneau from the six-team tournament, meaning just three teams are still standing entering Saturday’s action: McMurry, UMHB, and ETBU. The Crusaders are set to battle McMurry–who handed them a 7-3 loss on Thursday–at 1 p.m. in Belton. The winner will face ETBU later in the afternoon.
From the onset, UMHB’s hitting generated momentum, with the Cru tallying four runs in the top of the first inning on three hits. Lexi Harris led off the contest with a single, and scored with the bases loaded on an error charged to LeTourneau third baseman Hunter Handley, as Izzy Gutierrez also crossed the plate on the play for a 2-0 lead.
With a confident approach as a team, UMHB kept the inning rolling with Elissa Elliott’s two-run double bringing both Bailey Eggleston and Julia Crofut home, as the lead doubled in one swing of the bat.
LeTourneau did its best to hold off UMHB’s offensive surge, and held the Cru scoreless in the second, but Taylor Holman’s three-run homer in the third broke the contest wide-open. Leading 7-0, Eggleston and Elliott opened the fifth with consecutive base hits, and a walk to Jessica Miller soon after loaded the bases with one out.
Then Holman came through a second time at the plate, driving in the Cru’s eighth run of the game on her sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Eggleston, who tagged from third.
Grason Long and Kami Flores worked tirelessly in the circle, shutting out the Yellowjackets, who had a total of three hits on the day. Long, who ended up tossing 16.0 innings in a 24-hour span with her complete-game effort against UTD and 6.0 innings against McMurry, pitched three complete innings. She allowed just two hits and a walk.
Those two hits came in consecutive order in the third with two outs, as a single from Kylie Grisham and Mickenzie Murry’s double put two runners in scoring position for LETU. But Allyse Castillo, at third base for UMHB, got the Cru out of the jam as she fielded a ground ball off the bat of Kenna Hendry cleanly and fired to first base in time for the third out.
Flores entered the game in the fourth, and did much of the same, limiting LETU to one hit over the course of 2.0 innings.
UMHB top hitters: Lexi Harris (2-for-3, run), Bailey Eggleston (2-for-3, 2 runs, 2 RBI), Elissa Elliott (2-for-3, 2 RBI, run), Taylor Holman (1-for-2, run, 4 RBI)
W: Grason Long, UMHB (15-4): 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
L: Murphy Williams, LETU (13-8): 0.1 IP, 2 H, 4 ER, 2 BB
UMHB softball opens Friday’s tournament action with win over UT-Dallas
BELTON- Facing elimination on Friday afternoon, the UMHB softball team put together a strong effort against No. 6 seed UT-Dallas, jumping out to an early lead, as the Crusaders emerged with a 6-1 victory.
UMHB is now set for a 5:30 p.m. duel tonight in Belton, facing LeTourneau, who won 6-5 in walk-off fashion against Hardin-Simmons earlier this morning.
“It was great just to come out and be ready to play,” UMHB head coach Melissa Mojica said postgame. “We did the little things right today and it went our way.”
It took little time for the Cru’s momentum to generate at the plate, as UMHB scored twice in the opening inning. Lindsey Polleschultz followed Lexi Harris’ leadoff base hit to shallow left-center field with a bunt single of her own, putting runners on first and second base with no outs.
Harris and Polleschultz revealed the aggressive approach early on in a wild baserunning scenario. With Harris now on third and Polleschultz still at first, Polleschultz ran towards second base after a pitch to Julia Crofut. Naturally, UTD catcher Megan Todd fired the ball towards second base, in an attempt to catch Polleschultz stealing. But the UMHB shortstop avoided the tag at the second base bag, while Harris sprinted for home plate.
Not only did Harris score, but Polleschultz just kept running as the ball was relayed towards home, and ended up sliding into third. UMHB employed a similar tactic in the next at-bat, as Crofut attempted to steal second while Polleschultz scored easily.
“It’s important to change that momentum for sure,” Crofut said. “I’m not the fastest, if I’m being honest, but if I’m aggressive enough, it changes the momentum, because the ball is going to go straight to second and [the runner on third] will score easily.”
“These are the little things that we’ve worked on,” Mojica added. “When we’re running that play, you go straight into the bag. We’re not trying to avoid a tag or do anything fancy. She executed that perfectly.”
That gave the hosts a 2-0 lead, and consecutive two-run innings in the third and fourth widened the margin to 6-0.
In her second straight day starting in the circle, Grason Long delivered a convincing performance, adding 7.0 innings to the 6.0 she threw in Thursday’s contest against McMurry. Long allowed just three hits and a run in the complete game effort, striking out five.
“It’s kind of hard to pitch to these teams sometimes because you see them throughout the regular season, but I was trusting my defense like I always do and pitching to contact,” Long said postgame. “Strikeouts are a bonus.”
Long added that she worked hard to “focus on her spins” when it came to pitching against the Comets, who she had faced twice already this season.
“If you spin the ball, nobody is going to hit it over the fence as hard. You get groundballs and trust your defense. They’ve played behind me all year. Not only is the pressure on me, but it’s also on [my defense]. We handle pressure well.”
The victory keeps UMHB’s hopes of an ASC Tournament title alive heading into the nightcap. Mojica knows her squad is ready for the challenge. UMHB went 2-1 against LETU in a series in Longview earlier this season.
“LeTourneau has played a lot of games now too, so we’re in the same boat,” Mojica noted. “It’s just going to be who can last the longest, stay focused, and do the small things right.”
UMHB top hitters: Bailey Eggleston (2-for-3, double, run, RBI), Taylor Holman (2-for-3, triple), Julia Crofut (run, 2 walks), Lexi Harris (2-for-4, 2 runs, RBI)
W: Grason Long, UMHB (14-4): 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 5 Ks, 0 BB
L: Emilie Hoelscher, UTD (13-10): 2.2 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 1 K, 3 BB