By Dave Wagner: PNT sports writer
Eastern New Mexico University’s softball team attempted to ride senior pitcher Rosemary Moreno to the brink of a berth in next week’s Lone Star Conference tournament.
Moreno kept the Zias alive on Friday with her 22nd complete game of the season, a 5-3 win in the opener, but Angelo State knocked her out with a six-run second to earn a 17-9 victory in the nightcap at Zia Softball Field.
The split keeps the Rambelles (30-23, 12-8 South) one game ahead of the Zias (32-20, 12-10) for the division’s third and final spot in the tournament heading into today’s regular-season-ending noon twin bill.
Moreno (19-8) scattered nine hits in the opener, and the Zias took the lead for good when senior second baseman Tracy Jordan hit a three-run homer to left-center in the third inning.
Then, after a 1-2-3 first in the nightcap, Moreno gave up five hits in the second and came out.
“She was out of gas,” ENMU softball coach Armando Quiroz said. “She gave us all she had.
“Rose pitched another great game (in the opener). We just play differently when she’s (in the circle).”
Down 1-0, the Zias took advantage of an error and a fielder’s choice on Brianna Darnell’s sacrifice when third baseman Brittany Welch’s throw to second was too late.
The runners moved into scoring position on another sacrifice before Jordan delivered her fifth homer of the season for a 3-1 lead.
“Tracy played like the senior that she is,” Quiroz said. “She hit the ball hard all day long.”
Jordan, a four-year regular from Rosamond, Calif., admitted she didn’t think she got quite enough of it.
“To be honest, I didn’t think so,” she said. “I thought it was going to be a sacrifice fly.
“Obviously the team needed a hit in that situation, and I’m just glad I could come up with one.”
Tina Whitt hit a leadoff double in the fourth before pinch-runner Elizabeth Hawkins took third on a sacrifice and scored on a wild pitch. The Rambelles pulled to 4-3 with single runs in the fifth and sixth, but Christina Helland singled home Kelsey Kubik in the bottom of the sixth.
Moreno allowed at least one hit in all but one inning and pitched out of several jams. She walked none and struck out seven.
“We hit the ball in the first game, but we left too many runners on base (nine),” said Angelo coach Travis Scott, who was ejected in the first inning of the second game for arguing a play at first base. “Rose did a good job of using her off-speed stuff when she needed it.”
The Rambelles quickly took control in the nightcap. Angelo posted 21 hits off three ENMU pitchers, with each of the bottom five players in its order going 3-for-5.
Brittney Cargill and Jessica Stroud delivered back-to-back homers in a five-run fourth. Meantime, the Zias collected 14 hits, with first baseman Elizabeth Whipkey finishing 3-for-4.
“I’d take a repeat tomorrow,” Scott said of the split. “I thought we had a chance to run-rule them a couple of times, but Eastern kept hanging in it.
“I don’t care if it ends up 17-16 as long as we win.”
Jordan said that while their backs are against the wall, the Zias’ seven seniors don’t want their careers to end today.
“At least we left ourselves in a position where we can still make the conference (tournament),” she said. “Our team has a lot of heart. We’re not going to give up.”