By Dave Wagner
PORTALES — Kevin Blaskowski built the Southern Arkansas University softball program from scratch, capped off by a 30-win season this spring.
But the North Dakota native believes he has a better chance of getting to the NCAA Division II national tournament at Eastern New Mexico University.
Blaskowski won a three-way battle to become ENMU’s new softball coach over Ron Landschoot, who filled in at Eastern on an interim basis in 2003, and Southeastern Oklahoma’s Travis Scott.
“It’s very difficult to leave that program,” said the 39-year-old Blaskowski, who led the Riderettes to a 31-19 record this year and a 136-126 mark over five seasons. “There are a lot of good people there, and the program has grown.
“I just felt like in the situation here, there were things that were tough to pass up.”
ENMU athletic director Mike Maguire said the program should be in good hands.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have Kevin Blaskowski join our staff,” Maguire said. “He will be an excellent addition to the program.”
ENMU, with Landschoot taking over for Kathleen Rodriguez shortly before the season opener, went 24-29 in 2003. Since going to the nationals two years ago, the Zias have been a .500 team (52-52).
Blaskowski, though, is shooting to get the Zias back to the nationals. “That’s the level I feel I can get the program to very quickly,” he said.
Southern Arkansas, which shared the Gulf South Conference West championship this spring, has played a number of Eastern’s Lone Star Conference rivals, giving Blaskowski a feel for the competition.
“From the things I’ve heard about the people here and seen, this is a quality program and one that’s used to success,” he said. “A lot of the other programs here have had success, and I feel like we can do our part to add to that.”
Blaskowski has a 341-241 record in 12 years as a college head coach. His other stops took him to Kansas Wesleyan, Washburn (Kan.) and Phillips University (Okla.).
“I’m excited about coming to a new area,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a great region (South Central) to work in, and I’m hoping that our schedule will be very region-friendly.”
Maguire expressed appreciation for the job done by Landschoot, who was able to keep a team which lacked overall depth relatively competitive despite taking over in the 11th hour.
“His time and effort were appreciated, and we wish him the best in future endeavors,” Maguire said.
Landschoot plans to return to the Las Cruces area for now, where he and his wife have a home. He said he was grateful for the opportunity at ENMU, and wants to continue coaching somewhere at the college level.
“I love the people here and the environment, but life goes on,” said the 59-year-old Landschoot, a former head coach at New Mexico State. “I really want to coach at the college level because I’ve been there.”