Zias fall short of postseason

Eastern New Mexico University catcher Tina Whitt (left) and pitcher Rosemary Moreno discuss the situation during the first game of the Zias’ Lone Star Conference South Division softball twin bill Saturday against Angelo State. (PNT photo: Karl Terry)

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — Disappointed not to make the Lone Star Conference postseason tournament, the Eastern New Mexico University softball team was determined to go out in style on Saturday.

Angelo State clinched a tourney berth and eliminated the Zias in the process with a 9-3 win in Saturday’s opener at Zia Softball Field, but ENMU got two solo home runs from senior Tracy Jordan and a tie-breaking, three-run shot from senior Tina Whitt to end its campaign with an 8-5 victory in the second game.

“We were just loose,” ENMU coach Armando Quiroz said of the finale. “We’d lost the incentive of making the conference tournament, but you can’t fault the effort.”

An injury to freshman third baseman Brianna Darnell, who took a line drive to her left eye in Friday’s opener and required about 30 stitches to close a cut, forced Quiroz to do some serious shuffling with his personnel the rest of the series.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t make it (to next week),” Quiroz said, “but how can you call this a failure? The last thing the (seven ENMU) seniors said to the returning players was, ‘Keep it up.’”

ENMU (33-21, 13-11 South) posted the second-most wins in the nine-year history of the program and shattered school records for batting average (.360) and home runs (57). Four players hit better than .380, led by junior Kelsey Kubik (.439) and senior Jessica Nocas (.413).

“We just wanted to have fun,” said junior center fielder Kristina Goodman, who went 5-for-7 on Saturday after going 0-for-7 in Friday’s twin bill. “We were really relaxed (in the finale); we wanted to win it for the seniors.”

In the sixth, Goodman threw out Angelo speedster Kandace Kubat trying to score the tying run from second on a single by Whitney Meeks. Jordan then homered and Kubik added an RBI single in the bottom of the inning.

“I’ve been having trouble out there,” Goodman said, alluding to a shoulder problem. “I just tried to relax. I gave it everything I had.

“It was a nice way to end (the season).”

Meantime, the Rambelles (31-24, 13-9 South) could have earned the division’s No. 2 seed with a sweep, but settled for third after Texas Woman’s (25-34-1, 13-8-1) beat division champion Abilene Christian 2-1 on Saturday to salvage the finale of their four-game set.

“We’re walking out of her happy to still be playing next week,” said Angelo coach Travis Scott, who was without top pitcher Rachel Walck on Saturday due to a scratched cornea. “We knew we had two teams who could swing it. It’s been a long, trying weekend and I’m glad it’s over.

“I feel for their kids not getting to play next weekend, but I’m happy for my youngsters.”

Senior Rosemary Moreno (19-9) couldn’t hold the Rambelles in check in the opener. Angelo broke the game open in the sixth on a three-run double by Macy Baker, who also scored on two throwing errors on the play for an 8-1 lead.

ENMU senior Natasha Lindsey (9-8) worked 3 2/3 innings in relief in game 2 after starter Amanda Nightingale went out with back problems, and Moreno returned for the final two innings to earn her second save of the season.

Whitt put the Zias ahead for good 5-2 with her 13th homer of the year in the third, extending her own single-season school record.