By Dave Wagner
PORTALES —After surpassing last year’s win total a day earlier, Eastern New Mexico completed a three-game sweep of sixth-ranked St. Mary’s on Sunday with a 12-6 victory at Greyhound Field.
The Hounds (14-18) rallied from a 4-0, fourth-inning deficit to win going away behind a 17-hit attack.
Eastern started a spring break trip on Monday with a 16-1 loss at Northwestern Oklahoma, but have since won six of seven. Against St. Mary’s, they did virtually everything right in recording their first series sweep of at least three games since March 11-12, 2000, at New Mexico Highlands.
“That’s a huge sweep for us,” ENMU coach Phil Clabaugh said. “I’m a happy guy right now. I’m real pleased, and I want (the players) to be pleased with each other.”
Meantime, the Rattlers (29-10) have now dropped five in a row, starting with a midweek doubleheader loss at Abilene Christian.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Phil’s team,” said St. Mary’s coach Charlie Migl, who led the Rattlers to an NCAA Division II championship in 2001. “Those guys definitely wanted it. They put the ball in play when they wanted to, and they got good pitching.
“Hopefully, this humbles us a little bit and we can come back and get our thing together.”
Facing St. Mary’s ace left-hander Jeff Wigdahl (6-3), who came in with a 1.83 earned run average, the Hounds scored 10 runs on 14 hits between the fourth and seventh innings. Then in the eighth, they manufactured two insurance runs without a hit.
“We got ’em on (base), we got ’em over and we got ’em in,” said sophomore left fielder Gilbert Alvarado, who went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two knocked in out of the No. 8 hole. “The team’s looking pretty good. We were down early, but we battled back. Now we want to see if we can keep the roll going.”
Alvarado, who misplayed a fly-ball single in the top of the fourth, redeemed himself in the bottom half with a ringing RBI double into the left field corner to put the Hounds on the board. He later added a pair of singles.
“I was due,” he said. “I just wanted to help the team out. Coach gave me a chance to play today, and I wanted to make the most of it.”
Shortstop Josh Kuchta, batting ninth for ENMU, also put together a 3-for-4 day highlighted by a two-run, opposite-field triple on a hit-and-run play in the seventh.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play and keep it out of the middle (of the infield),” he said.
Kuchta and second baseman Bryan Moore turned three double plays, giving the Hounds seven twin killings in the series. ENMU made just one error in the three games.
“This whole weekend just started off with great pitching,” Kuchta said. “The pitchers work to get ground balls (in double-play situations). All I have to do is get the ball over to Bryan Moore and he turns them pretty quickly.”
ENMU pitching allowed nine walks on Sunday, but sophomore right-hander Kelly Crain left after five innings with a 5-4 lead and five relievers combined to allow four hits and two runs the rest of the way.
ENMU 12, St. Mary’s 6
St. Mary’s 012 101 010 — 6 12 2
ENMU 000 232 32x —12 17 0
Jeff Wigdahl, Caleb Staudt (7), Brandon Lippe (8), Carlos Tristan (8) and Jerry Verastegui; Kelly Crain, Antwhan Yazzie (6), Josh Sellers (6), David Swinconos (7), Keith Baldarez (8), Trevor Davis (9) and Brett Scherer. W — Sellers (2-1). L — Wigdahl (6-3). DP — St. Mary’s 1, ENMU 3. LOB — St. Mary’s 11, ENMU 7. 2B — St. Mary’s: Ian Grigar, Bobby Freeman, Steve Driffill. ENMU: Mark Wallace, Gilbert Alvarardo. 3B — ENMU: Josh Kuchta. T — 2:50. A — 80.