By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — After 15 games, Northeastern State baseball coach Sergio Espinal says he finally learned his lesson.
The Tahlequah, Okla.-based Redmen hadn’t had a complete-game pitching performance this season before Friday, but got two and played errorless defense in a 5-1, 3-1 Lone Star Conference crossover sweep of Eastern New Mexico University at Greyhound Field.
Right-handers Bobby Winfrey (2-0) in the first game and Mike McKey (2-2) in the nightcap were in control most of the way, each giving up a first-inning run before settling in.
Espinal, whose squad lost three of four to Texas A&M-Kingsville at home last weekend, said he’s tried to get starters out before they got in trouble in previous games.
This time, he just decided to leave well enough alone.
“Our pitchers did a great job today,” he said. “It’s (changing pitchers) something I’ve been a knucklehead at in a few games, and it’s cost us.
“Last week, (the quality of pitching) was about the same, but our relievers haven’t been doing the job lately.”
The Hounds got solid mound efforts in their own right on Friday from junior Kelly Crain (2-3) in the opener and senior Brett Scherer (1-2) in the nightcap. They just weren’t able to get anything going with the bats.
Veteran ENMU coach Phil Clabaugh was tight-lipped after the twin bill.
“It’s not very hard to explain,” he summed up. “They (NSU pitchers) just threw fastballs all day, and we couldn’t hit them. That’s about all I have to say.”
Eastern’s first-inning run in the opener came on a one-out walk to Josh Kuchta and a triple to right by Scherer, who tried to score when the relay was bobbled. He jumped over NSU catcher Jason Arrowood and appeared to be safe, but was ruled out for not sliding.
Crain pitched 3 1/3 hitless innings before giving up three consecutive hits for a run. Then, in the sixth, the Redmen broke the tie with a walk and four hits, capped by Dustin Pope’s two-out, two-run double just inside the right field line.
From the third through the fifth, ENMU put two men on base after the first two hitters were retired but left them stranded. In the sixth, the Hounds loaded the bases with one out before Bryan Moore lined into a double play.
In the nightcap, Scherer gave up 11 singles — nine in the first four innings — but kept the Hounds in the game. The Redmen did all their damage in the third on RBI hits by Pope, catcher Adam Miller and Webb.
McKey, who came in with a 7.78 earned run average and 35 hits allowed in 19 2/3 innings, set down nine in a row after Moore legged out a double to start the first. He came around to score on groundouts by Josh Kuchta and Scherer.
ENMU opened the fourth with singles by Kuchta and Scherer, but couldn’t advance them and McKey finished by retiring 12 of the final 13 hitters.
“We played great defense today,” Espinal said. “Eastern New Mexico battled, but the ball bounced our way today.”
ENMU 11-6, NSU 7-5 (Saturday) — Scherer hit a game-tying two-run single, highlighting a four-run fifth that allowed senior pitcher Trevor Davis (4-1) and the Hounds to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the second game.
Justin Gee’s groundout drove in the go-ahead run, and left fielder Gerald Juarez capped the rally with an RBI double.
Davis gave up 10 hits, but walked none and struck out seven. He fanned NSU’s Adam Miller to end the game and strand the tying run at second.
In the opener, junior left-hander David Swinconos (1-0) pitched into the sixth inning in only his third collegiate start and the Hounds broke out with a seven-run second. ENMU then opened an 11-3 lead with a four-run fourth.
The Hounds banged out 15 hits off four NSU pitchers, including 3 for 4 by Bryan Moore and Justin Gee. ENMU finished with 28 hits for the day, with Moore also going 3 for 4 in the opener.
Bobby Winfrey’s bases-loaded triple chased Swinconos in the sixth inning. Freshman Kellen Smith finished, giving up one run on a groundout but retiring all six Northeastern batters he faced.