Quinones hoping Zias will have strong finish

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — The 2008 softball season hasn’t been what Eastern New Mexico University’s Rebecca Quinones and her teammates had envisioned.

Quinones, a 5-foot-2 sophomore second baseman from Gilbert, Ariz., has personally done all right. She’s posted a .361 batting average and leads the Zias in doubles (17) and RBIs (34) heading into this weekend’s season-ending Lone Star Conference South Division series against Texas Woman’s at Zia Softball Field.

But ENMU (25-28, 3-12 South) needs a three-game sweep of the Pioneers to salvage a .500 record.

“It’s been a rough, long season,” the soft-spoken Quinones said. “But we’re looking forward to next year.”

Quinones was recruited to Eastern by former coach Armando Quiroz, who saw her playing on a club team in the Phoenix area. Quiroz left the program for personal reasons in March 2007.

Towson, a Division I school in Maryland, expressed interest in Quinones out of high school, but she said ENMU was a good fit.

“I really liked coach Q,” she said. “And I wanted to stay (relatively) close to home.”

ENMU’s defense and pitching have been as good or better than expected this season. While the Zias have hit decently (.301 team batting average), they haven’t done that well in clutch situations.

“We’re not getting timely hits,” Zias coach Amber Daniel said. “Our offense has been inconsistent.”

Quinones said this series is important, even though it won’t lead to postseason play.

“We want to sweep them and get to .500,” she said. “And we want to do it for our (three) seniors as well.”

Quinones batted .337 last year and led the team with 50 RBIs. She’s spent most of this season batting cleanup.

“Aside from Alex (Mayo Otis) and Anna (Hershkowitz), she’s been one of our most consistent hitters,” Daniel said. “That’s why she’s in the No. 4 spot.”

Texas Woman’s (18-39, 2-13) comes in trying to escape the South cellar. The Pioneers have given the Zias trouble in recent years and, despite their record, could do so again.

“They’re similar to us,” Daniel said. “They’ve had a down year, but they always seem to play better toward the end of the year.”