Photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON- Everyone in the large, vocal crowd underneath the clouded skies in Belton on Saturday afternoon knew what was on the line.
When these seven innings were over, one of the two–either No. 4 seed McMurry or No. 1 seed UMHB–would have its ASC tournament hopes dashed. The other would get a chance to battle ETBU later in the afternoon.
UMHB rose to the occasion in what turned out to be the epitome of a pitcher’s duel.
UMHB’s Grason Long, who started her fourth straight game in the circle, delivered a flawless no-hitter, sending the Warhawks down in order in dominant fashion. The senior right-hander had little trouble handling the McMurry lineup, despite the fact that she had tossed six innings against the Warhawks just two nights before.
The seven-inning no-hitter brought her up to 23.0 innings in the tournament, and marked her second no-hitter of the 2023 campaign. What puts this accomplishment in perspective is the fact that Long is now the first pitcher in UMHB history to fire two no-hitters in the same season. She joins Haley Parker as one of two pitchers in program history to throw two no-hitters in her career.
While Long’s pitching held McMurry to a row of zeros on the scoreboard in left-center field, it was Taylor Holman’s solo home run in the top of the sixth inning that put the Crusaders in front. The Round Rock, Texas native connected on a pitch from McMurry’s Jenna Lewis and promptly sent it over the outfield fence for her second straight game with a homer, as she also homered for three runs in Friday’s 8-0 win over LeTourneau. Holman’s home run was one of just two hits for UMHB, with the other coming off the bat of shortstop Lindsey Polleschultz.
With UMHB up 1-0, and the game still within reach, McMurry went to the plate in the bottom of the seventh with a determined minset. And the Warhawks nearly broke through. But three timely plays from UMHB’s defense kept the no-hitter intact in the final frame, sealing the victory.
The first out came when Jesse Stephenson popped a high fly ball to shallow center field, and nearly dropped onto the outfield grass, just before UMHB centerfielder Lexi Harris raced in with exceptional speed, catching the ball in midflight.
The inning’s second out came moments later, as Trista Brown lined a pitch straight to third base. Fortunately for the Cru, Allyse Castillo was more than ready to make the play, and caught the hard-hit ball with ease.
The game’s final out saw a ball off the bat of Bre Barajas sent towards first base, and deflected off the glove of UMHB first baseman Julia Crofut. Second baseman Elissa Elliott fielded the groundball in stride, though, and fired to first in time, securing UMHB’s spot in the ASC Championship against ETBU at 3:20 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
UPDATE: ETBU beats UMHB, 3-2, in 8 innings to secure ASC Tournament Title
BELTON-The UMHB softball team’s run in the ASC Tournament came to an end Saturday afternoon, as ETBU won in walk-off fashion, 3-2.
The game was knotted at 0-0 through seven scoreless innings, with ETBU pitcher Ashley Croft–the tournament MVP–and UMHB pitcher Kami Flores putting together a pair of incredibly strong outings.
A number of key defensive plays, such as Blakely Niles’ tag of ETBU’s Tristen Madd on an attempted steal of home with one out in the third inning, paved the way to a pitcher’s duel and low-scoring contest.
It was not until the eighth inning that UMHB broke through, pushing two runs across in the top of the frame. Elissa Elliott reached base on an error to lead things off, and she moved over to third on Niles’ groundout. Julia Crofut delivered the RBI, driving a pitch from Croft into deep left field, as Elliott easily scored.
Two batters later, with Kaitlin Powers pinch-running for Crofut, Lexi Harris lined a pitch down the left field line, just past third base as Powers raced across the plate. That made it 2-0 in favor of UMHB, who were seeking their fourth straight victory over ETBU this season.
The Tigers countered however, beginning with a base hit from Madd that led off the bottom of the inning. After a fielder’s choice that got Madd out but allowed Courtney Whi to reach first base, Croft singled. Delanie Loya walked in the following at-bat, loading the bases with one out.
Tauryn Cummings then came through with the biggest hit of the tournament, driving the second pitch of the at-bat to the left-center field gap. It hit the grass and rolled towards the outfield fence as all three baserunners from ETBU scored on the play, giving the Tigers a dramatic 3-2 victory.
ETBU secured its 11th ASC tournament title, and went 3-0 in this year’s tournament. The Tigers earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and UMHB is also in the at-large bid conversation. The tournament field will be announced on Monday at noon.
We have an additional column/game story from Saturday’s action coming very shortly, so stay turned.