CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Zias pitcher Kimberly Crouse fouls off a pitch in the 11th inning of Saturday’s opener. Crouse had 16 strikeouts in the 5-4 setback to Texas Woman’s.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s softball team dropped a Lone Star Conference South Division doubleheader to Texas Woman’s on Saturday. The Zias could have just as easily been on the other end.
ENMU never led in either game, but in its last at-bat had the winning runs in scoring position in the opener and the tying run in scoring position in the nightcap in 5-4 and 7-6 losses to the Pioneers at Zia Field, falling to 3-10 for the season in one-run games. The first contest went 11 innings.
ENMU (15-37, 2-14 South) and TWU (37-17, 10-6) close out the regular season with a 1 p.m. contest today. The Pioneers clinched third place in the South and will play in next weekend’s LSC tournament.
“My hat’s off to them,” TWU coach Richie Bruister said of the Zias. “They played well, and we were fortunate to win two games today.
“Actually, we were fortunate to win one game today.”
ENMU senior Kristen Cruickshank, sidelined since April 3 with a knee injury, belted a pinch-hit home run leading off the bottom of the seventh to tie the opener 2-2. The Pioneers then scored twice in the top of the 10th, but sophomore shortstop Melissa Williams tied it again in the bottom half by ending an 0-for-18 slump with her team-leading sixth homer of the season, a two-out, two-run shot.
Pioneers third baseman Jordan Readicker then delivered her fourth hit, a run-scoring single, in the 11th. The Zias loaded the bases with one out in their half before Kayla Williams (6-1), who relieved 24-game winner Carly Case after Melissa Williams’ home run, escaped by getting a pair of fielder’s choice grounders.
Zias senior Kimberly Crouse (6-16), who came in with a 3.40 earned run average, lowered it by allowing three earned runs in 11 innings. She allowed 11 hits, walked three and struck out 16.
“Kimbo pitched a great game,” Zias coach Lauren Sigwing said. “To throw 11 innings and hold that team to five runs in incredible.
“After Kristen got hurt, she’s really turned it up. She’s just been lights out.”
The Pioneers appeared to be cruising in Game 2 with a 7-2 lead going into the bottom of the seventh, but the Zias put four runs on the board before anyone was retired.
A double, a walk and an error made it 7-3, then Alex Mayo Otis blooped an RBI single to left to chase left-hander Abby Burns (7-6). Williams surrendered a two-run single up he middle to Crouse, but struck out the next two hitters.
“With a five-run lead, you’re supposed to got out there and throw strikes and play defense, and we didn’t,” Bruister said. “But there was no quit in their team.”
A passed ball moved Crouse to second, but she was called for interference on Amanda Lale’s grounder between third and short for the final out.
Right fielder Angie Arebalos drove in four runs with a two-run bloop single in the first and a two-run homer in the fifth. Left fielder Billie Callahan’s two-run homer in the top of the seventh turned out to be the winning margin.