By Dave Wagner
Perhaps, first-year Eastern New Mexico University softball coach Kevin Blaskowski mused, the Zias should just play in tournaments.
They’ve certainly had little success at home or anywhere else besides a neutral field.
Saturday, Tarleton State completed a four-game Lone Star Conference South Division sweep with 5-2 and 5-1 wins at Zia Softball Field, leaving Eastern winless at home this season in 14 tries.
Playing on opponents’ home turf, the Zias (10-31, 1-15 South) have managed just one win — a 3-2 verdict earlier this month at Abilene Christian in which they held on to win despite outhitting the Wildcats 13-3.
ENMU, which ends the campaign next weekend at Texas A&M-Kingsville, went 9-9 this spring in neutral-field games.
“For the most part, our gloves have been solid this season, and our pitching has been pretty good at times,” Blaskowski said. “But we just can’t create enough offense.”
The Zias scored five runs in the series, losing 3-0 and 7-2 on Friday.
Veteran TexAnns coach Julie Mata said she was relieved to get through the series with TSU (27-11, 10-4) solidly in second place in the South behind Angelo State.
“This series has worried me since before we started the conference,” she said. “They play us so tough at home. We have a lot of respect for Eastern.
“Coach Blaskowski is a good coach. We competed against him when he was at Southern Arkansas, and he always does a good job.”
While senior pitchers Maegan Rhoten and Lauren King kept the Zias in striking range, ENMU managed only one extra-base hit in the four games — Rhoten’s double off the top of the fence in Friday’s opener.
Rhoten (3-13), who despite her record has a 2.90 earned run average, had TSU shut out until the fifth inning in Saturday’s first game before surrendering two home runs to senior slugger Monica Garza and another to sophomore shortstop Amanda Smith.
King (3-12) trailed 1-0 until the sixth inning in the nightcap when the TexAnns pushed across three runs on three hits and two walks. No. 9 hitter Brandi Row drove in three runs in the game with a single and a two-run double.
“I thought Maegan threw a good game (in Friday’s opener),” Blaskowski said. “She’s given us a chance to win the first game in every series we’ve played.
“And Lauren threw a lot better (on Saturday). Our pitchers gave us a chance this weekend, and I was glad to see them throw well on Senior Day.”
Garza entered the series batting .495 with just five strikeouts all year, but whiffed three consecutive times on Friday against Rhoten, who fanned a season-high 10. But Garza and Neva Parrott homered off King in the nightcap.