Hounds bounce back for split with Northeastern State

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — After losing the opener of a four-game series with Northeastern State 26-3 on Friday at Greyhound Field, Eastern New Mexico University baseball coach Phil Clabaugh acknowledged there were positives the rest of the weekend.

Still, the fact the Greyhounds dropped three of the contests to the Redmen left him feeling a little disappointed.

The Hounds, beaten 10-9 in Friday’s second game, came back to split in Saturday’s twin bill.

They won the opener 7-4 with a three-run sixth, but lost the nightcap 6-5 when Northeastern plated three in the sixth.

“If we’re going to be successful, we’re going to have to win games like we had today,” Clabaugh said. “This team can do some things. We’re still trying to find out who we’re going to do it with.

“The thing I’m really disappointed with in the second game is we didn’t execute with our DH (position). We weren’t very good offensively this weekend.”

ENMU (8-4) got decent starting pitching from lefty Seth Clabaugh in the opener and right-hander Jeff Roemer (1-1) in the nightcap.

“We had better starting pitching today,” coach Clabaugh said. “We were able to get the ball to (closer Keith) Balderaz in the first game.”

Catcher Paden Vendrely went 3-for-3 in the opener, including a two-run single in the fifth to put ENMU in front 4-3. After the Redmen (5-2) tied it, third baseman Derrick Kennedy doubled just inside third for the go-ahead run in the sixth and the Hounds added runs on Mike McDuffie’s sacrifice fly and a run-scoring balk by Northeastern pitcher Josh Thorton (0-1).

Balderaz, who set the school record with nine saves in 2006 but is coming off elbow surgery, then worked 1-2-3 in the seventh for his first save this spring.

The Hounds nursed a 4-3 lead into the sixth inning of the nightcap, but a one-out walk and single finished Roemer. Evan Orsak gave up a tying single to Kyle Davidson and a two-out, two-run double to designated hitter Nash Garcia.

The Hounds pulled to 6-5 in the seventh on a two-out RBI double by Gerald Juarez, who went 3-for-4 as the second-game catcher. But Northeastern’s Jimmy Pike got Vendrely, who was pinch-hitting, on a groundout to earn his fourth save.

“They were tough ballgames this weekend, except for the first one,” Northeastern coach Sergio Espinal said. “We have a good team. I think we’ll compete with every team we play this year.

“I’m just glad we won. I’m happy for my team, for the coaches and players.”