By Kevin Wilson
PORTALES — Lubbock Christian’s win could have been easily chalked up to a career day for Zach Barnard. Eastern New Mexico coach Phil Clabaugh chooses inexperience instead.
Barnard, a sophomore designated hitter, went 3-for-4 with three homers and eight RBIs, leading a Chaparral team that capitalized on ENMU mistakes and left Greyhound Field with a 15-12 victory Tuesday night.
Lubbock Christian (21-11) never trailed and led 15-2 going into the seventh-inning stretch. Barnard’s first home run, a three-run shot in the first, set the tone for both teams.
“That was huge for us because we’re starting a freshman on the road,” Chaparral coach Nathan Blackwood said. “To come in with a 3-0 lead is huge for his confidence.”
The freshman in question, Shane Wright, benefitted enough from the early lead to pick up his first collegiate win. The 6-foot-1 righthander from Midland allowed two runs on four hits in his six innings of work.
“I feel like Wright did a good job,” Blackwood said. “He was hitting his spots well and we played good defense behind him.”
The Greyhounds’ starter, Josh Sellers, did not have similar success. The sophomore righthander went three innings and allowed five runs, all coming from two of Barnard’s homers. Barnard hit a two-run shot in the third, and his first-inning opportunity came after the Greyhounds couldn’t convert on a rundown at second base on Aurio O’Neill.
“If we execute there, we’re out of the inning, they don’t score,” Clabaugh said. “We tell (our players) to run the guy back to the base and if he gets back, he gets back. Again, we’re depending on some freshmen who don’t understand college intensity on a daily basis.”
Barnard also walked twice, and scored on a Matt Daugherty double in the fifth. His third homer, a three-run shot to center off reliever David Swinconos, came in a six-run seventh that put the game out of reach.
Still, the Greyhounds rallied behind a three-run shot from Jesse Aguilar in the eighth. All told, ENMU (8-13) scored 10 runs in the final three innings but dug too big of a deficit in the first six-and-a-half.
“Still, the kids didn’t give up, they battled,” Clabaugh said. “They make me old, and I’m old already. If we cut down the mistakes, we’d win more ballgames.”
The Greyhounds stay home this weekend for a three-game series against Abilene Christian, starting with a 4 p.m. doubleheader Friday. Clabaugh didn’t feel he needed to get the team intensity up because they’re playing ACU, but he is concerned about next week’s five-game road trip through Oklahoma, leading up two a three-game home series at the end of March against St. Mary’s.
Clabaugh is also trying to let the players know there is only so much he can do as a manager.
“Baseball’s played by the players,” Clabaugh said. “They’ve got to play within themselves. We’ve got some guys picking up exactly that and some guys who aren’t showing up.”