By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico baseball and softball teams endured four-game sweeps on the road over the weekend, but not for lack of effort.
Facing one of the Lone Star Conference North Division’s top baseball programs in Southeastern Oklahoma, the Greyhounds (8-12) dropped a pair of one-run decisions and were kept in check on offense by the Savages. Meantime, the Zias (13-14) battled defending NCAA Division II national champion Angelo State and lost three times by a run — including one game in extra innings and another in the bottom of the seventh.
ENMU baseball coach Phil Clabaugh said Southeastern simply has a solid program.
“They played awful well,” he said of the Savages (11-8), whom he said had been struggling a bit before the weekend. “It wasn’t so much that we played bad, they just played better.”
The Hounds got an encouraging start from left-hander David Swinconos, who allowed three hits in 5 1/3 innings of Saturday’s 2-1 first-game loss.
“He’s kind of settled in as the fourth starter,” Clabaugh said. “And Kellen Smith and (Josh) Kuchta have shown they can get some people out (in relief), and that’s encouraging.”
ENMU committed eight errors in the series, including four in Saturday’s 6-2 setback in the nightcap, but Clabaugh noted the Hounds turned six double plays in the four games and made several spectacular catches in the outfield.
“Justin Gee struggled at the plate (2-for-10), but he played as good a right field as I’ve ever had played,” Clabaugh said. “He made three catches with his back to the infield.”
ENMU pitched decently, he said, but the Savages hit well in the clutch.
“The only time they got hits is when they needed them,” he said.
The Zias slipped under the .500 mark for the season in their opening South series at ASU, but acting head coach Amber Daniel said she hopes they play as well the rest of the way as they did against the ninth-ranked Rambelles (20-6).
“Rose (Rosemary Moreno) struggled in the first game a little bit (giving up 13 hits in an 8-7 setback), but our other pitchers threw well — especially Patricia (Gonzales) and Natasha (Lindsey),” Daniel said. “Our defense was (relatively) flawless this weekend, for the first time.”
ENMU played errorless defense on Saturday after committing seven miscues in Friday’s twin bill.
Gonzales (4-5) gave up a two-out solo homer to ASU first baseman Christel Neal in the bottom of the eighth in a 4-3 first-game loss on Saturday. Then Lindsey (2-2) threw six solid innings in a 2-1 setback in the nightcap.
Daniel said the Zias have shown the ability to compete.
“I’m not worried about it,” she said. “If we play the way we played this weekend the rest of the way, we’re not going to lose many more games.
“People aren’t going to outhit us. If anything gets us, it’ll be our defense.”