Former Lady Lion’s no-hitter makes history
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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