Freedom New Mexico: Mickey Winfield ENMU junior Kristen Cruickshank fires a pitch in relief of starter Brittany Regalado during Friday’s first game against Oklahoma Panhandle State at Zia Softball Field.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — A little home cooking took care of any effects of a potentially tough loss for the Eastern New Mexico University softball team.
The Zias completed the sweep of a two-day, four-game homestand on Friday by pounding Oklahoma Panhandle State 9-6 and 13-3 at Zia Softball Field.
ENMU (9-5), which swept Texas-Permian Basin on Thursday, has won seven of its last eight. The loss, though, came Sunday at the Schutt Sports Division II Leadoff Classic in Phoenix, in which 10-3 lead disappeared in an eight-run seventh inning that gave Western New Mexico an 11-10 win.
The Zias had 10 hits for extra bases against the Lady Aggies (0-4), including home runs by juniors Alex Mayo Otis and Rebecca Quinones in the opener and Kimberly Crouse and Josette Aguirre in the second game.
“We bounced back from (the Western game),” said Quinones, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs in the opener and added an RBI single in the nightcap. “I think the whole team hit good.”
Senior Brittany Regalado (1-0) made her first career start in the circle for the Zias in the opener, working around eight walks to get through 5 1/3 innings.
“It’s been a problem for our staff,” Zias assistant Sarah Hausner, who handles the pitching staff, said of the walks. “That’s our biggest obstacle right now.
“We were trying to get some girls some innings.”
Meantime, the Zias’ 11-hit attack included 2-for-3 outings by Mayo Otis and Kristen Cruickshank.
Mayo Otis and Quinones had solo shots in a three-run fourth that pushed the score to 6-1. ENMU led 9-2 going into the sixth before the Lady Aggies parlayed three walks, a sacrifice fly, Kayla Joos’ RBI single, a run-scoring groundout and an error into four runs.
Quinones doubled home two runs in a three-run first, then doubled and scored in the third before belting her home run to left-center in the fourth. Prior to Friday, the Zias’ cleanup hitter had only two hits for extra bases — both doubles — in the first 12 games.
“I felt good,” she said. “I was seeing the ball good today.”
The Lady Aggies jumped on Mayo Otis, making her first appearance in the circle since her freshman season in 2007, for two runs in the top of the first. ENMU countered with a five in the bottom half, capped by Crouse’s two-run homer, then added three in the second and four in the third.
Aguirre put the final run on the board with a fourth-inning solo shot to center.
“I don’t know if we thought the game was over when we got ahead or what,” first-year OPSU coach Rachel Burleson said. “We just gave it to them.”
Burleson, a former assistant at Northwest Missouri State, said she’s trying to build a program which has struggled over the years.
“The kids that are playing now are just going to have to play,” she said. “We’ll mature as the season goes on.”