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Former Lady Lion’s no-hitter makes history

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By Riley Zayas

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, a Livingston High School alum, started her fourth straight game in the circle and 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.

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 mindset. 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 center fielder Lexi Harris raced in with exceptional speed, catching the ball in mid-flight.

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 later in the afternoon.

The Tigers went on to win, 3-2, in eight innings, as a walk-off double from Tauryn Cummings gave ETBU the tournament title. Both UMHB and ETBU were selected as NCAA Tournament regional hosts when the NCAA announced the tournament field on Monday.

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Bookman places at state meet

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Boys Long Jump 1A

Christian Coker [sr] Henrietta Midway 21-5.75
A’mareion Bookman [jr] Goodrich 21-5.00
Bryce Virdell [sr] Van Horn 21-3.50
Shamadrick Weaver [sr] Whitharral 20-9.25
Brody Dooley [so] Fayetteville 20-4.50
Sawyer Francis [jr] Silverton 20-4.25
Levi Vazquez [sr] Blanket 20-1.00
Sam Wiggins [jr] Electra 19-10.50
Dakota Higgins [jr] Rising Star  19-9.75

Boys Triple Jump 1A

Christian Coker [sr] Henrietta Midway  44-5.50
Khari Woodson [so] Slidell  44-4.50
A’mareion Bookman [jr] Goodrich  43-8.50
Blake Bunger [jr] Rankin  42-8.75
Jack Schley [fr] Fayetteville  41-3.00
Jordan Harrison [sr] Mertzon Irion County  40-11.75
Griff Reel [so] Jayton  39-7.50
Blayne Shuck [sr] Groom  39-4.50
Joshua Herrera [so] Nueces Canyon  39-4.50

Boys 400m 1A

Baret Jackson [jr] Rankin 50.07
Griff Reel [so] Jayton  50.73
Devin Guillory [jr] Knox City  51.44
Christian Coker [sr] Henrietta Midway  51.87
Nicholas Romo [so] Woodson  52.86
A’mareion Bookman [jr] Goodrich  52.88
Diego Padilla [jr] Bruni  53.15
Christopher Garcia [sr] Munday  53.25
Chris Velasquez [sr] Morton  53.51

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Playoff Baseball - Polk County

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051123 polk playoffs baseball

Corrigan-Camden vs. Woden — Best-of-3
Thursday — Game 1 in Shelbyville 5:30 p.m., 
Game 2 will be 30 minutes after conclusion of Game 1.
Game 3 Saturday, if needed. 

Big Sandy vs. Harper ­— 1 game
Friday 5 p.m. in Fayetteville

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Onalaska ends season as school’s best

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051123 onalaska baseballThe team takes direction from the Wildcat coaching staff. Photo by Clay Lilley

By Clay Lilley

The Onalaska Wildcats finished one of their best baseball seasons in school history Saturday, with the final two games of the bi-district playoffs ending in one-run differences in Caldwell versus Brazos.

Game 1

Onalaska won Game 1 in a best-of-three series 5-0, with some clutch hitting and another strong pitching performance from senior Brady Smith. Smith threw a complete game shutout of seven innings, allowing no runs on one hit with six strikeouts and four walks.

Onalaska got on the board first in the second inning on a Ty Phillips single to left field, scoring Alex Batiste from third base. Senior Zach Taylor hit a double down the first-base line, scoring Smith to make the score 2-0. Then, Lucas Jackson scored Taylor on a fielder’s choice, pushing the Wildcat lead to 3-0.

Brazos threatened to score with the bases loaded and no out in the fourth, but the Wildcats held them off. The ‘Cats scored again in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded, Smith laid down a squeeze bunt scoring Jackson. Then, Jeret Purkerson hit a sacrifice grounder to second base, allowing Grant Thornton to score the final run of the game.
Game 2
Wildcat centerfielder Wyatt Reyes scored from first base on an error by Brazos in the first inning, and in the second inning, Purkerson scored from third on a bases-loaded walk, giving the Wildcats an early 2-0 advantage.

The Brazos offense finally got going in the third inning, scoring four runs on an error, balk, and a triple, taking a 4-2 lead in the game.

Onalaska took the lead back in the sixth inning when Taylor got two RBIs on a line-drive single to center field and Purkerson scored from third on an error by the catcher, giving the Wildcats a 5-4 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh with a runner on third, Onalaska made an error, allowing the Cougars to tie the game at 5-5. Then in the eighth inning, Brazos scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly to center for a 6-5 final. 

Onalaska started the junior Thornton on the mound in Game 2.

“Grant did a really great job for us, scattering six hits over seven innings, striking out five and only giving up maybe three earned runs,” Onalaska head coach Cody Pinkert said of Thornton’s performance. “I’ll take that stat line all day. We were proud of his performance.”

Taylor pitched the eighth inning for the Wildcats, giving up a run on two hits and taking the loss for Game 2. 

The Brazos win tied the series and set up a winner-take-all Game 3, what every baseball player dreams of. Unfortunately for Onalaska, the dream didn’t end well.

Game 3   
The Wildcats started lefty Brody Hoover on the mound against the Cougars. Brazos took an early 2-0 lead, putting two runs on the board in the first inning on a double steal and a sacrifice fly. Hoover kept the Wildcats in the game, pitching four innings, allowing two runs on three hits, striking out two, and walking two.

Onalaska got on the board in the fourth on a Jackson RBI-single to center, scoring Conner Ruiz from third. Then in the sixth, Jackson hit an RBI-double to right field, scoring Reyes from second base, tying the game at 2-2.

The Cougars came right back and scored once again in the bottom of the sixth. That run would be too much for the Wildcats to overcome, losing Game 3 with the final score of 3-2.

Freshman Ty Phillips pitched the final two innings for Onalaska and allowed only one run on one hit, while striking out four.

“Brody and Ty both stepped up for us on the biggest stage either of them has ever pitched on, and did the job their team needed,” Pinkert said. “Both of them deserve a lot of credit for the job they did in Game 3 for us.”

The loss ends the season for Onalaska with a 17-10-1 record. Though the season ended vwith two heartbreaking losses, the Wildcats finished with 17 wins, placed second in district, and won its first playoff game – all bests in school history.

The team had three seniors – Smith (pitcher/utility), Taylor (first base/pitcher) and Aiden Roberts (outfielder). Their leadership and experience will be missed, but most of the team returns next year, including juniors Jackson (shortstop), Thornton (second base/pitcher), Hoover (first base/pitcher); sophomores Thad Lilley (catcher/pitcher), Purkerson (third base/pitcher), Ruiz (center field/catcher); and freshmen Reyes (left field), Batiste (right field), and Phillips (pitcher/outfielder). The future looks bright for Pinkert and his Onalaska Wildcats

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Onalaska clinches second place 

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By Clay Lilley

With second place in District 23-3A baseball on the line for both teams, the Onalaska Wildcats (16-8) defeated the Shepherd Pirates (14-12-1) 1-0 Monday afternoon.

Onalaska started lefty Brady Smith and the senior pitched another outstanding game for the Wildcats. He threw five shutout innings while striking out seven and walking three.

Smith has been dominant on the mound in his last six starts, allowincinnings for the Wildcats, earning the save.

Jered Purkerson scored the only run of the game on a double steal in the second inning with two outs.

The win gives Onalaska second place in district and a bi-district matchup against the Brazos Cougars Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. at Magnolia High School. This is the first time Onalaska has been in the playoffs since 2018.

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