Hounds sweep twin bill, win series

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo ENMU’s Mitch Wolfe dives safely back to second base on a pickoff play during the opener of Saturday’s Lone Star Conference baseball doubleheader against Southeastern Oklahoma State at Greyhound Field.

CNJ staff

PORTALES — What a difference a week makes.

Eastern New Mexico University’s baseball team, outscored 37-3 in an embarrassing season-opening doubleheader loss at New Mexico Highlands on Feb. 6, bounced back to take three of four from Southeastern Oklahoma to open Lone Star Conference play this weekend, capped by Saturday’s 8-7, 6-2 sweep at Greyhound Field.

The Greyhounds won the seesaw opener when senior designated hitter Sean Cruce drew a one-out walk in the ninth, took second on a passed ball and scored on second baseman Garrett Cook’s single to center, his third hit of the game.

In the seven-inning second game, ENMU scored single runs in the fourth and fifth to erase a 1-0 deficit, then opened a 6-1 lead with a four-run sixth.

ENMU took a 4-3 lead in the opener on catcher Ryan Pruitt’s two-run, opposite-field triple to right in the bottom of the fourth. The Hounds added three runs in the sixth for a 7-3 cushion, with senior third baseman Chris Eaton hitting a two-run single and Pruitt eventually scoring on a squeeze bunt by center fielder Luis Quinones.

Two errors and a walk loaded the bases for the Savage Storm (4-3, 1-3 LSC) in the seventh and signaled the end of the day for ENMU starter Justin Cotten. Southeastern tied it off reliever Anthony Smith on a two-run double to right-center by Blake Gentry, a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Brandon Smith and a run-scoring single by first baseman Mike McCollum.

Junior right-hander Trey Polston worked the final two innings for the win, striking out the side in the eighth and retiring all six batters he faced. Heath Wyatt (1-1), Southeastern’s third pitcher, took the loss.

The Savage Storm broke through in the third inning of the nightcap against ENMU’s Russell Campbell when Miller was hit by a pitch, stole second, took third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch. The Hounds tied it in the fourth when Kevin Thompson led off with a single to left, took second on a wild pitch by David Cagle (0-1) and scored on Mitch Wolfe’s single to right field.

In the fifth, the Hounds loaded the bases with one out on an error, a single and a hit batsman. With two outs, Cagle uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Cruce to score from third.

In the sixth, Eaton walked and Matt Nilo was hit by a pitch before Quinones punched a run-scoring single up the middle. Later, Nilo and Quinones worked a double steal with Nilo scoring, and the Hounds added insurance runs on an RBI single by Cook and a run-scoring triple by catcher Paden Vendrely.

Campbell (1-1) allowed three hits and struck out seven in five innings, working around four walks. Senior Juan Sanchez relieved Ricardo Martinez with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth and preserved the lead by getting pinch-hitter Casey Gibson on a pop-up to second and pinch-hitter Brandon Smith on a fly ball to left.

ENMU outhit the Savage Storm 8-6, getting hits from seven players. Shortstop Stephen Garrett accounted for half of Southeastern’s hits, going 3-for-3.