BELTON — Baseball players live for moments like this: bottom of the ninth, two runners on and the home team trailing by two runs.
Tyler Taute made his moment count.
The Mary Hardin-Baylor first baseman drilled a double into the left-field gap to tie the second game of a doubleheader, and Chase Burrow ended it with a single two batters later to help the Crusaders sweep Mississippi College 4-3, 4-3 at Red Murff Field on Friday.
“We knew we had a good situation on our hands,” Burrow said of the ninth inning. “Runners on first and second, no outs and one of our best hitters up. Our mindset was just do what it takes to get the job done, and Taute delivered. It was special for him, a great clutch hit.”
UMHB (12-2, 9-2 American Southwest) had struggled offensively prior to the ninth, scoring its lone run in the third inning without the benefit of a base hit and collecting just five total hits.
But when the ninth inning came around, the Crusaders couldn’t be stopped.
Alex Smith walked and Tripp Reeves was hit by a pitch, prompting coach Brian Owens of the Choctaws (5-10, 4-7) to change pitchers and bring in side-armer Grady Turman.
“The discussion we had there was whether to bunt,” UMHB coach Ben Shipp said. “Tyler is a pressure player and I knew we had two pinch hitters coming up after him. He’s a good bunter. But the best way to come through is when they are expecting you to bunt, you get a good pitch to hit.”
Taute said he knew the coaches were going to let him hit, and the discussion turned to how to approach Turman’s delivery.
“He was going to keep it low, so I was looking for something in that area I could reach out and drive,” he said.
After Taute’s game-tying double, pinch-hitter Ty Johnson struck out and Josh Cruz walked to bring up Burrow, who wasted no time in launching a line drive into center field to bring home pinch runner and former Shoemaker standout Emery Atkisson.
And as soon as Atkisson crossed home plate, the celebration began with the Crusaders chasing Burrow into right field.
“That felt pretty good,” said Burrow, who tried to evade being tackled by his teammates. “I didn’t want to get dog-piled, so I had some fun with it.
“This team is resilient. We know if this guy didn’t make a play somebody is going to pick him up. It’s fun to be a part of.”
In the first game, the Crusaders won in similar late-inning fashion, with Reeves singling in former Ellison star K.J. Stark in the bottom of the sixth for the game-deciding run.
“We’ll take them any way we can get them,” Shipp said. “That’s the best ballclub we’ve played all year. Their pitching staff is excellent and they held us down. But eventually you get your opportunity and we got ours in the ninth. And the guys took advantage with some great at-bats. Taute and Burrow had both been struggling but they came up big when they needed to.”
Danny Horstman (1-0) got the win in relief in the second game, and starter Nicholas Bergmann (3-1) picked up the win in the opener.
The teams conclude the three-game series today at 11 a.m.