By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Give Eastern New Mexico University’s baseball team credit for being able to avoid the “here we go again” mentality in Sunday’s second game against Central Oklahoma.
After getting waxed 20-8 in the opener for their third loss of the Lone Star Conference crossover series and 12th consecutive setback overall, the Greyhounds found themselves down 4-0 in the second inning of the nightcap.
Suddenly, though, left-hander Justin Sergeant and three relievers combined to string five zeroes while first baseman Troy Vaughan’s three-run homer off a light standard in left-center capped a five-run third as ENMU rallied for a 7-4 victory over the Bronchos.
Sergeant, a redshirt freshman from Ruidoso, wobbled through the first two innings. He surrendered a two-run homer to Bronchos catcher Breck Draper in the first.
The Hounds (11-17) got on the board on Tim Crafton’s RBI single in the second, then roughed up Central Oklahoma left-hander Dean McIntyre (1-1) for five hits in the third — four coming after two were out.
“We won with courage and toughness,” ENMU coach Phil Clabaugh said, “and it started with Justin.
“There was a lot of pressure on the team, but they stayed positive and won with toughness.”
Sergeant (1-0), who had a 20.57 earned run average and was making his first collegiate start, allowed eight hits in four innings.
“It was a good feeling to know coach and my teammates had faith in me,” he said.
Last year, the Hounds won the third game of a four-game set at Central Oklahoma, snapping out of an 11-game slide.
“These guys play with so much heart,” Sergeant said of his teammates. “It took a lot of courage for everybody to climb on that field with a positive attitude. The game turned for us today.”
Jeff Roemer, Tyler Doughty and Keith Balderaz each worked a hitless inning with Balderaz, who took losses in both ends of Saturday’s twin bill, picking up his third save. Jonathon Marbury added a two-out homer for ENMU in the sixth.
“I think we thought we had it when we scored three runs in the first inning,” veteran Bronchos coach Wendell Simmons said. “But the Eastern New Mexico kids play hard.
“Any time you come to Portales and win three out of four against a Clabaugh team, it’s a pretty good accomplishment. I’ve always said he gets more out of a team than anyone I’ve coached against in 32 years.”
In the opener, the Bronchos’ 20 hits included nine doubles — four players had two apiece — and a solo home run by third baseman Brian Covington. Central Oklahoma (17-7-1) led 12-0 after 4 1/2 innings.
Crafton hit a three-run triple and Roemer went 3-for-4 to highlight the Hounds’ seven-hit attack.