By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — After winning three of four from Southeastern Oklahoma in early March, the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds were sitting at 16-4.
What was followed by a 10-game losing streak, including four-game sweeps by Southwestern Oklahoma and Cameron.
Veteran ENMU coach Phil Clabaugh has never seen anything like his team’s Jekyll-and-Hyde season.
“We haven’t really played worth a darn since Southeastern,” Clabaugh said as the Hounds (18-16) prepare to begin Lone Star Conference South Division play against Angelo State (21-10) with 4 p.m. doubleheaders today and Saturday at Greyhound Field.
“I’m not taking anything away from those other teams, but I don’t think Southwestern and Cameron are any different than Southeastern.”
Clabaugh said the losing streak, which ended with an 18-10 win on Sunday at Central Oklahoma, was the longest for one of his teams since his first squad at Western New Mexico in 1988 lost 19 in a row.
Still, Clabaugh knows things can turn around.
“Reality is generally someplace in the middle (between the hot start and the losing streak),” he said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with how hard we’re playing — we’re just playing bad.
“I just don’t know what to think; it’s been a crazy year. Baseball’s about consistency, and we’re certainly not that.”
Angelo State, a second-year program, figures to be a formidable challenge. The Rams come in fourth in the LSC in hitting (.324), and rank second in pitching (3.46 earned run average) and defense (.959 fielding percentage).
ENMU Senior catcher Brian Green said Wednesday’s 21-14 win at Colorado Christian provided a much-needed lift for the Hounds.
“It gives us some confidence,” said Green, whose .365 average ranks him third on the team. “But we know we’ve got our hands full with Angelo State.
“They’re a good team, but we’re a good team as well. We’re going to have to play good to beat them.”
With Abilene Christian and Texas A&M-Kingsville nationally ranked, Clabaugh believes the Hounds need to win this weekend’s series to put themselves in position to make the conference tournament.
“I just know this — in baseball, anybody can beat anybody,” he said. “I’m sure we’re the underdogs against Angelo. A lot of guys in the North (Division) think Angelo has the best team in the South. I know they’ve got a boatload of talent.”