Zias pull out series finale against ACU

By Dave Wagner

If you have to score runs in bunches to win, second-year Abilene Christian softball coach Chantiel Wilson figures she has the team to do it.
Led by slugging first baseman Katie Bryan, the Wildcats banged out seven home runs and 33 hits in posting a 14-8, 11-7 Lone Star Conference South Division sweep over Eastern New Mexico University on Friday at Zia Softball Field.
Bryan, the LSC’s top home run hitter, went 6-for-8 with a walk in the twin bill. She drove in 12 runs with four homers — a two-run shot and a grand slam in each game.
“She’s a great hitter,” Wilson said of Bryan, a senior who leads the LSC with 15 home runs. “She works so hard, and it’s nice to see someone like that be successful.”
On Saturday, the Zias hit four home runs to just one for ACU — by third baseman Valerie Malkinson — and earned a split with the Wildcats, winning the nightcap 7-3 after losing the opener 15-10.
ENMU (15-22, 2-10 South) had plenty of offense on Friday, banging out 26 hits in the two games. Junior shortstop Jessica Nocas belted a three-run homer and drove in six runs in the opener for the Zias.
But Bryan got support in that game from right fielder Jade Wilson, who drove in four runs with a two-run homer and a two-run double, and Malkinson, who was 4-for-4 and followed Bryan’s two-run shot in the sixth with her ninth of the season.
“A lot of the other coaches make fun of us for having that kind of team,” Chantiel Wilson said. “But coming in here, I knew we’d have to hit well because Eastern has been hitting well.”
Bryan’s first-game grand slam, on an 0-2 pitch, capped an eight-run fourth that put the Wildcats in front 10-4. Nocas, who singled in two runs in the first and hit a sacrifice fly in the third, cut the lead in half with her first homer of the season in the bottom of the fifth before the Wildcats pulled away for good.
In the second game, ENMU junior Patricia Gonzales (4-7) pitched well enough to keep the Zias in the game. But in the seventh, ACU (24-15, 8-4) loaded the bases on three singles and opened an 11-5 lead when Bryan cleaned them by pounding one off the scoreboard in left-center.
Freshman Melanie Smith (1-2), who came in with a 9.19 earned run average, allowed two runs in four innings of relief for the Wildcats.
“She did a great job,” Chantiel Wilson said. “We were hoping to get three innings out of her.”
The Zias’ 14 second-game hits included junior left fielder Christina Helland’s first home run of the season. Hellend and Nocas each had five hits for ENMU.
“I can’t stress enough how the mental aspect of the game is hurting us right now,” ENMU acting coach Amber Daniel said. “I’m proud of the way we hit the ball today, and I like the fight we had, but it’s a process and hopefully it’ll all come together sometime.”

ACU 15-3, ENMU 10-7 (Saturday) — The Zias nearly doubled their home run total for the season with six in the series, giving them 13 for the season.
Right fielder Tori Picazo went 7-for-8 in the doubleheader, including 5-for-5 in the nightcap, and homered in each game to give her seven for the season. Second baseman Tracy Jordan went 6-for-8, hitting a solo homer in the opener and driving in three runs with four hits in the second game.
Leading just 8-7, the Wildcats broke open the first game with a seven-run seventh.
ENMU junior Natasha Lindsey (4-4), who took the loss in Friday’s opener, came back with a complete-game seven-hitter to get the win in the finale. Lindsey walked none and struck out four.

Friday
First game
Abilene Christian 14, ENMU 8
ACU 020 803 1 —14 15 4
ENMU 301 030 1 — 8 12 2
Jennifer Leal and Ashley Whittenberg; Natasha Lindsey, Rosemary Moreno (4) and Courtney McClasky. W — Leal (17-7). L — Lindsey (3-4). DP — Eastern New Mexico 2. LOB — Abilene Christian 3, Eastern New Mexico 8. 2B — Abilene Christian: Whittenberg, Jade Wilson, Daisy Barcena. Eastern New Mexico: Tori Picazo. HR — Abilene Christian: Katie Bryan 2 (13), Valerie Malkinson (9), Wilson (7). Eastern New Mexico: Jessica Nocas (1). T — 1:57. A — 77.

Second game
Abilene Christian 11, ENMU 7
ACU 213 100 4 —11 18 3
ENMU 310 010 2 — 7 14 1
Leal, Melanie Smith (2), Allison Crouse (6) and Whittenberg; Patricia Gonzales and Tina Whitt. W — Smith (1-2). L — Gonzales (4-7). Sv — Crouse (1). LOB — Abilene Christian 9, Eastern New Mexico 10. 2B — Abilene Christian: Wilson. Eastern New Mexico: Adriana Reyes, Nocas, Elizabeth Whipkey, Adina Taul. HR — Abilene Christian: Bryan 2 (15), Barcena (6). Eastern New Mexico: Christina Helland (1). T — 1:47. A — 57.

Saturday
First game
Abilene Christian 15, ENMU 10
ACU 051 200 7 —15 18 2
ENMU 101 230 3 —10 20 0
Leal, Smith (7) and Whittenberg; Moreno and Whitt. W — Leal (18-7). L — Moreno (4-8). DP — Abilene Christian 1, Eastern New Mexico 1. LOB — Abilene Christian 7, Eastern New Mexico 12. 2B — Abilene Christian: J.D. Doty, Danielle Faulk. Eastern New Mexico: Helland, Picazo, Nocas, Kristin MacRunnels. 3B — Abilene Christian: Wilson. HR — Abilene Christian: Malkinson (10). Eastern New Mexico: Helland (2), Picazo (6), Tracy Jordan (2). T — 2:10. A — 83.

Second game
ENMU 7, Abilene Christian 3
ACU 101 010 0 — 3 7 1
ENMU 011 014 x — 7 13 1
Smith, Crouse (5) and Whittenberg; Lindsey and McClasky. W — Lindsey (4-4). L — Crouse (5-6). LOB — Abilene Christian 6, Eastern New Mexico 10. 2B — Abilene Christian: Bryan, Malkinson 2, Whittenberg. Eastern New Mexico: Reyes, Taul. HR — Picazo (7). T — 1:25. A — 64.