Zias face crucial weekend

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s softball team hasn’t been playing that badly of late, just quite well enough.

Still, the Zias control their own destiny as they prepare to end the regular season with noon Lone Star Conference South Division doubleheaders today and Saturday against Angelo State at Zia Softball Field.

ENMU (31-19, 11-9 South) is fourth just behind the Rambelles (29-22, 11-7), and must win three games this weekend to earn one of three berths from the division in next week’s LSC postseason tournament at Irving, Texas.

“It’s in our hands,” Zias coach Armando Quiroz said. “We can’t depend on anyone else. It’s a daunting task, but we can do it.”

Meantime, the ENMU baseball team faces an uphill battle trying to climb into tourney contention. The Greyhounds (22-26, 4-8 South) host seventh-ranked Abilene Christian (33-11, 8-4) in twin bills starting at 4 p.m. today and noon on Saturday at Greyhound Field.

The Zias have split six of nine South twin bills this spring, but second-place Texas Woman’s and Angelo are coming off four-game sweeps which put have put ENMU in some trouble.

Quiroz said senior right-hander Rosemary Moreno (18-7) may pitch both games today. She worked both contests last Saturday at Texas A&M-Kingsville, winning the opener 5-2 while losing the second game 5-2 when the Zias’ defense permitted three unearned runs.

“I think this team is ready for the challenge,” said Moreno, who has gone 9-2 with a 1.95 earned run average in division play. “Angelo’s a really good team, but I think we’ll be all right.

“We don’t want Angelo to be our last game.”
ENMU continues to lead the LSC in hitting at .357, but has only two homers in the last two series after walloping 50 in its first 42 games.

“The key this weekend is Rose (Moreno) and our hitting,” Quiroz said. “We’ve seen much better pitching in the (South) than in our non-conference (schedule). When we hit, we’re tough to beat; when we don’t, it’s a different story.”
Quiroz said he would monitor Moreno, who is second in ENMU’s nine-year history in single-season wins behind Jennifer Harrer (24 in 2001).

“We’ll take a pitch count after the first game and see where she is,” he said.

Meantime, the baseball team has dropped three heartbreaking decisions in South play, including a 5-4 verdict at Tarleton State last Friday on a two-out grand slam by the Texans’ Ryan Howard in the eighth inning. The others were extra-inning losses at home to Angelo State and West Texas A&M.

Those verdicts are the difference between holding third place in the South at 7-5 and being in the cellar. Meantime, Abilene Christian has won a number of relatively low-scoring games in division play and currently shares the division lead with Angelo.

“They’ve been winning games a little differently than in the past, which means they’re pitching well and playing good defense,” ENMU coach Phil Clabaugh said. “Obviously, we’re not doing very well in either of those areas.”

ENMU, which will also need to do well next weekend at third-place Texas A&M-Kingsville (31-14, 6-6), has dropped 22 of its last 28 games since a 16-4 start.

“I’m not sure how we’ll approach these games,” Clabaugh said of his team. “Baseball is still a game about how you handle the negatives.

“We’ll have to play our best ball if we’re going to compete with these guys. If we could win a couple of games somehow, who knows what it would look like for us going to Kingsville?”