By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University baseball coach Phil Clabaugh isn’t as concerned about losses as he is that his team plays the way it has to if it hopes to be successful.
The Greyhounds went toe-to-toe with Central Oklahoma over the weekend, outhitting the Bronchos 41-34 and putting themselves in position to win three games. But it was UCO which left town with a 3-1 series win after sweeping Sunday’s doubleheader 10-4 and 6-5 at Greyhound Field.
“This team will battle,” Clabaugh said of his squad. “The biggest thing is we can’t lose that, because that’s how we’re going to have to play.
“We did a lot of good things (in the series). We just have to be much more proficient at what we do.”
The Bronchos (4-1) outhomered ENMU 7-1 in the series, and simply made more timely plays in the field. They were also able to advance runners and play “small ball” when the situation warranted.
“We’re a big-inning ballclub and we’ve got a lot of power,” veteran UCO coach Wendell Simmons said. “Today it went back and forth. It makes us a better team to have to fight for it.”
Still, Clabaugh was encouraged that the Hounds (4-4) had the winning run either at the plate or on base in the last inning of UCO’s two one-run wins.
The Bronchos erased a 1-0 deficit in the opener on shortstop Jake Mays’ three-run, third-inning homer off Josh Brazell (0-1), then chased the ENMU starter with a seven-run fourth that featured consecutive home runs by Nick Thigpen, Mays and Brandon Bacon — on five pitches.
Freshman Kellen Smith pitched 3 2/3 innings of one-hit relief for Eastern, but the damage was done.
Brett Scherer drove in Bryan Moore with a first-inning single and a third-inning sacrifice fly and Derrick Kennedy hit a two-run double in the fourth off Bronchos left-hander Chris Jones (1-0). Justin Gee led ENMU’s 11-hit attack by going 3-for-4, while Scherer and Kennedy were both 2-for-3.
Fielding woes cost ENMU’s Trevor Davis (2-1) in the nightcap. The Bronchos took a 5-0 lead in the third inning with the help of two errors, two misplayed outfield fly balls and the failure to turn what could have been an inning-ending double play.
“We can’t play like that,” Clabaugh said. “We’re not the kind of squad that’s going to hit the ball out of the yard a lot.”
The Hounds scrambled back, scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh off reliever Chad Ashley on a leadoff home run by Brian Green and a two-out RBI single by Mark Wallace.
But Ashley closed out a shaky save by retiring Gee on a fly ball to right with two men on base.
ENMU outhit the Bronchos 13-10, with Wallace and Josh Kuchta both going 3-for-4.
“Not many teams fight as hard as Eastern,” Simmons said. “If they play like they did against us, they’ll win a lot of ballgames.”