Eastern New Mexico University outfielder Gilbert Alvarado (left) is greeted by Kelton Hayes at home after scoring during a nine-run third inning for the Greyhounds on Friday. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
On the surface, Kelly Crain’s pitching performance might not seem impressive — 14 hits, seven runs, six earned runs.
Nonetheless, the senior right-hander got Eastern New Mexico University into the eighth inning on Friday, and the Greyhounds rode a nine-run third to a 12-9 victory over Colorado School of Mines in the team’s home opener at Greyhound Field.
Junior designated hitter Kelton Hayes belted his team-leading third home run — the Hounds’ 13th of the season, matching their total for 53 games in 2005 — and ENMU improved to 5-0 for the first time since coach Phil Clabaugh resurrected the program in 1992.
Crain (2-0) gave up three runs and four hits in the top of the third, but blanked the Orediggers (1-3) from there until running out of gas in the eighth, when Mines cut an 11-3 deficit to just two with a six-run outburst.
Two pitchers combined to get the final two outs in the eighth, and sophomore Keith Balderaz set the side down in order in the ninth for his second save.
“Balderaz was pretty much money,” Clabaugh said. “(Crain) was really good. I tried to stretch him, but as cold as it was I should’ve known better.”
The teams combined for 31 hits, but only one of the Orediggers’ 16 knocks went for extra bases while the Hounds collected five doubles to go with the 290-pound Hayes’ leadoff homer in the seventh.
Mines starter Josh Hegg, a transfer from New Mexico State, was sharp through two innings and appeared set to get through the third after Stephen Lopez-Barela’s sacrifice fly made it 3-1 and left one on with two out.
The next nine batters reached, though, as the Hounds opened a commanding lead and chased Hegg (1-1).
“Our No. 1 just lost it for an inning,” Mines coach Mike Mulvaney said of Hegg, a sophomore. “What he was doing consistently last week and for the first two innings today, he stopped doing. He just got into a thing where he lost it a little bit.”
Senior left fielder Gilbert Alvarado had a pair of singles in the inning. ENMU also got RBI doubles by Justin Gee, Jeff Roemer and Tyler Brown, a two-run single by Mike McDuffie and a two-run double by Ryan French that nearly went out in right field.
Mines freshman lefthander Jared Osif worked 5 1/3 innings in relief, allowing three runs — two earned, including Hayes’ homer — and six hits.
“He seemed a little nervous, but he found it,” Mulvaney said.
Clabaugh said Osif caused the Hounds some problems.
“I don’t think our hitters went to sleep (with a big lead),” Clabaugh said. “The lefty just had a decent changeup.”
Crain walked only one and threw just under 100 pitches. Although he had to use four pitchers, Clabaugh said the Hounds are in decent shape for the rest of the series — a noon doubleheader today and a 1 p.m. single contest on Sunday.
“They executed, and they don’t go away,” Clabaugh said of the Orediggers. “If you’ve got Ruidoso down by eight runs with one inning to play, it’s pretty much over, but (Mines has) scholarship athletes.”