Clements, Parker lead East Texas Baptist to win vs. Texas-Tyler and ASC title
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas -- Sara Clements knocked a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning Saturday to give East Texas Baptist a lead it would not relinquish as the Tigers claimed the American Southwest Conference championship with a 6-2 win against Texas-Tyler.
East Texas Baptist’s win was the second in as many days against the nation’s No. 1 team as the Tigers won their seventh ASC tournament championship, and their first since 2011, when they also defeated UT-Tyler.
“This is a huge accomplishment. Our girls showed up to play this weekend,” East Texas Baptist head coach Jenae Shirley said. “UT-Tyler is a talented team; playing them is always a challenge and to defeat them twice in two days is a huge accomplishment.”
With the ASC championship in hand, the No. 12-ranked Tigers (34-10) also earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III regional tournament, which will be held at the UT-Tyler campus in May. The Tigers last qualified for the regional tournament in 2011, one year after their national championship.
Texas-Tyler (41-4) lost to the Tigers for the third time this season after taking three out of four games from East Texas Baptist during ASC East Division play.
“Our team had an advantage in that we were one of two teams to have defeated UT-Tyler this season,” Shirley said. “We knew we were capable of hitting them and [Saturday] we got a well-pitched game and good defense.”
After prevailing 10-9 against the Patriots in the winners bracket final Friday, ETBU’s Shelby Parker (13-3) silenced the bats of one the nation’s best-hitting teams Saturday, scattering five hits to earn the complete game against a lineup that features nine .300-plus hitters. Brittney Batten’s two-run home run in the fourth inning that cut ETBU’s lead to 4-2 was the only blemish on Parker’s line.
Clements’ home run to right-center field off UT-Tyler pitcher Amanda Lopez with two outs in the first inning gave Parker all the support she needed. Maranda Westbrook and Kayla Garcia knocked one-out singles to set the stage for Clements’ big hit.
Lopez (2-1), a sophomore who had yet to appear in the circle for the Patriots in the tournament, gave up four earned runs in 1.2 innings. She came out of the game shortly after giving up an RBI single to Alyssa Romero that scored Kelsey DeCarolis in the bottom of the second inning.
The Patriots briefly seized momentum in the top of the fourth when Batten knocked her first home run of the tournament, scoring Carli Wheeler in the process. Batten was ETBU’s toughest out in the tournament; she finished the event with a .643 batting average (9-for-14) in five games.
The Tigers, however, were undeterred by the momentary shift in momentum. In the bottom half of the inning, ETBU pushed its lead back to four when Kayla Garcia’s two-run double to right field scored Romero and DeCarolis.
“What was special about this weekend was that we had different heroes in every game we played,” Shirley said. “[Friday] it was Kelsey [five RBIs], and [Saturday] it was Sara and Kayla.”
Clements’ performance Saturday vaulted her onto the all-tournament team, joining teammates Westbrook, Parker and Lya Swaner. Parker opened the tournament with a five-inning perfect game against Howard Payne on Thursday, and Swaner -- the lone senior on the ETBU team -- was named the tournament MVP after batting .500 and playing flawless defense in the Tigers’ four wins.