By Dave Wagner
After losing extra-inning openers in back-to-back four-game division series at home against Angelo State and Texas Woman’s, both weekends took a distinctive turn south for the Eastern New Mexico University Zias.
TWU, trying to stay in the Lone Star Conference South Division race, pulled out a 6-3, 10-inning win in Friday’s opener at Zia Softball Field, then won the second game 4-2. The Pioneers, ranked 16th in NCAA Division II, completed the series sweep on Saturday with 9-4 and 8-2 victories.
Veteran TWU coach Dianne Baker, whose squad had to settle for a series split at home against Texas A&M-Kingsville the previous weekend after losing a Saturday doubleheader, said she was just glad to see the Pioneers (27-5, 6-2 South) get on track.
“They’re a team with a lot of changes going on,” Baker said of the Zias (9-23, 0-8). “I think Kevin just has to get his personnel in here.
“Coming back today, for us, is a maturity thing. I think it showed some fight in my team.”
ENMU led Friday’s opener 3-1 before Texas Woman’s scored twice in the sixth inning, the latter on a two-out steal of third by Amanda Emory and a throwing error charged to catcher Liz Navarro when ENMU failed to cover the base.
Jenn Collins’ run-scoring double broke the tie in the 10th, and the Pioneers added two more runs against tough-luck loser Maegan Rhoten.
“We’re searching,” Zias coach Kevin Blaskowski said. “This is definitely a rebuilding situation. The problem is when you’re rebuilding and the other teams are loaded, weekends like these last two will happen.”
ENMU managed only 11 hits on Saturday — all singles — against TWU pitchers Dawn England (8-0) and Amanda Chambless (9-1). Meantime, Pioneers shortstop Teresa Flores went 7-for-8 in the twin bill and finished the series 11-for-17, raising her season’s batting average above .500.
TWU’s Stefani Easter homered in each of the first three games, giving her seven for the season.
“We hit the ball extremely well against Eastern,” Baker said. “I was proud of us coming back in that first game yesterday, and our pitching staff kept their hitters off-balance.”
One of the few highlights for the Zias was the pitching of senior Lauren King, who has struggled much of the season. She took a complete-game loss in Friday’s nightcap but pitched well for the most part, and then threw three shutout innings to finish off Saturday’s finale.
“They play with a lot of confidence,” Blaskowski said of the Pioneers. “They believe when they step up to the plate they’re going to make solid contact.
“We’re just having to call on a lot of young kids in key situations.”