CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks ENMU’s Kassandra Sanchez takes a pitch during Monday’s action against West Texas A&M University at Zia Field.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — It may not be much consolation, but Eastern New Mexico University’s softball team has shown at times that it can be competitive.
Mired in last place in the Lone Star Conference South Division, the Zias (13-32, 1-10 South) played their second quality game in a rain-delayed three-game series against division-leading West Texas A&M on Monday at Zia Field, only to come out on the short end of a 3-0 score.
WT went 3-1 against the Zias this season, also beating them 8-7 in an early-season tournament at Canyon.
“Other than the second game yesterday, every game has been hard-fought,” first-year ENMU coach Laura Sigwing said. “At least it should give us some confidence that if we play our game, we can play with anybody.”
WT (37-14, 11-4), ranked No. 17 in Division II, rode two home runs from catcher Meghan Brown to the victory in a dual between pitchers who threw shutouts on Sunday — WT’s Shelbey Cockrell, who pitched a five-inning no-hitter in the Lady Buffs’ 12-0 second-game win, and ENMU’s Kimberly Crouse, who turned in a three-hitter in winning the opener 5-0.
“I thought we played a very good game today,” Sigwing said. “They just did a little more than we did.”
Brown homered leading off the fourth inning, then added a two-run shot to center in the sixth.
Cockrell (6-0), WT’s closer who has eight saves this season but has moved into a starting role due to injuries, took care of the rest. She limited the Zias to three singles and struck out nine, but walked four and had to pitch out of a couple of jams.
“It was a great game today,” said WT and former Zias coach Kevin Blaskowski. “Both pitchers threw well. I can’t say enough about how Shelbey threw … and Crouse threw the ball well for them.
“We’re fortunate to get out of here with the series (win).”
Crouse (4-14), who has generally pitched better than her record indicates, allowed five hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
ENMU 5-0, WT 0-12 (Sunday) — Crouse held the Lady Buffs hitless over the final four innings in the opener as the Zias ended a 20-game South losing streak, dating to a 10-0 shellacking of Texas A&M-Kingsville at home on March 6 of last year.
ENMU broke through in the bottom of the fourth when Rebecca Quinones singled to center, Amanda Lale beat out a bunt and Melissa Williams hit an RBI double to left. Quinones and Lale then came around to score on consecutive wild pitches by Marci Womack (13-7).
The Zias added two in the sixth when Taylor Howard pushed a bunt single past the pitcher’s mound and onto the outfield grass, allowing Williams to score from second, before Kassandra Sanchez hit an RBI single to right.
The Lady Buffs scored in each inning in the nightcap, shortened by the eight-run rule. Cockrell faced only one batter over the minimum, issuing two walks — one was erased on a double play — and striking out eight.
Kimberly LeComte led a 12-hit WT attack, going 3-for-4 with a single, a double, her 15th home run of the season and two stolen bases.