By Kevin Wilson
After a 1-6 start, including a 25-18 loss to division rival West Texas A&M, it seemed unlikely that a playoff run would be happening for the Greyhound baseball team.
Now, after a three-game sweep over those same Buffaloes last weekend, the Greyhounds have given themselves a chance to capitalize on a regular season that ends mostly with home games.
Veteran Eastern New Mexico coach Phil Clabaugh has felt all along that his team would be able to get on a roll at some point, and now seems to be that time — ENMU (17-20, 6-8 Lone Star Conference South) has won nine of its last 12 games heading into today’s doubleheader at Oklahoma Panhandle State.
The doubleheader was originally scheduled for Greyhound Field, but was moved due to rain. The remainder of the schedule is still quite favorable to the Greyhounds, with eight of the last 11 at home.
“Our kids are supposed to know how to play at their own park,” Clabaugh said. “That’s what home field advantage is about, knowing how your yard plays. Other than that, it’s going to be decided by the better squad.”
If the Greyhounds can keep winning at home, they’ll put themselves in a position to host the Lone Star Conference Tournament as the South Division champ. They’re battling Abilene Christian and Texas A&M-Kingsville for that right — each of those teams has five division losses heading into this week.
“Basically, we’re three games out of the thing and we’ve got six games against those two teams. It just boils down to how we do the next two weekends,” Clabaugh said. “It’s been a goal of our program to win the tournament and it’s been a goal of our program to win the South. If you get a chance to do both of those things in the same year, that’s pretty big.”
Just two weeks ago, it didn’t look like ENMU’s late schedule would mean much. They were coming off of a six-game losing streak, the most recent a 16-1 drubbing at the hands of Northwestern Oklahoma.
From that point on, though, the pitching rebounded behind the efforts of Ian Thurman-Kelly, Trevor Davis, Kelly Crain and Jesse Garcia-Perez.
“We’re just now kind of getting those things lined out,” Clabaugh said. “Those four kids have given us a chance to win. We’re probably hitting a little bit above the school record. We’re averaging about seven and a half runs a game, and that should be good enough to win.”
There are still games that frustrate Clabaugh and the Greyhounds, like their 10-error effort in last week’s loss against Wayland Baptist. Oddly enough, that came after a three-game series with just one error, and three wins against St. Mary’s, then ranked No. 6 in Division II.
“The team that I believe is there is the team that showed up against St. Mary’s and the team that’s been on this streak,” Clabaugh said. “I really don’t know why we are susceptible to having major crises. The thing that’s been neat is watching them rebound from that.”