PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s struggling softball team nearly pulled one out of the fire on Tuesday.
Trailing 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh, the Zias had the tying runs on base before left-hander Ashton Bell managed to get the final out to preserve a 7-5 win at Zia Field.
The Lady Chaps (40-10) posted a 9-1 win in the opener, shortened to six innings because of the eight-run rule.
LCU also looked to be well on its way in the second game, building a 3-0 lead in the third inning with the help of solo homers from catcher Rebecca Billings in the second and first baseman Morgan Coburn in the third. The Zias (12-35) then chased starter Lauren Hardin and went ahead with a four-run third that included a run-scoring double by Beatriz Caporal and back-to-back RBI singles by pinch-hitter Marleyna Pinon and Audrey Velasquez.
Bell (5-1) relieved Hardin at that point and worked 4 2/3 innings, blanking the Zias until the seventh when Pinon doubled with one out and scored on a two-out single by Kyra Sirag. Shelby Ripple followed with a single to center before Bell was able to get Aurelia Sandoval on a grounder to short.
Meantime, the Lady Chaps quickly erased their deficit with a three-run fourth that included sacrifice flies by Mallory Koschany and Megan Sullivan. Jessica Loiacano added a solo shot leading off the seventh for a 7-4 lead.
Both teams had nine hits, with Pinon, Ripple and Caporal each getting two for the Zias.
Bell, Billings and Colburn all homered in the first three innings of the opener to stake LCU to a commanding lead.
Loiacano now has 18 homers for the season, while Colburn has 16.
Katera Eltsosie gave up nine singles in six innings, but kept them well-scattered. The Zias got their only run in the second on a single by Sirag, a sacrifice and a two-out single to left by Lizzy Velasquez.
The Zias have another non-league twin bill on tap today, hosting University of the Southwest with the first game to start at 1 p.m.