By Dave Wagner, Freedom Newspapers
After giving up four home runs in an 8-0 loss to Texas A&M-Kingsville on Friday, Eastern New Mexico University pitcher Nicole Dickson said a change in strategy was in order.
Working the corners of the plate more effectively, the junior right-hander tossed a two-hitter for her fifth shutout of the season in the Zias’ 3-0 first-game triumph in Saturday’s Lone Star Conference South Division doubleheader.
Freshman Kristen Cruickshank followed suit, scattering six hits in a 5-1 victory in the nightcap.
The sweep, however, wasn’t enough for the Zias (29-27, 11-13 South) to slip into next weekend’s LSC postseason tournament. Texas Woman’s escaped with a 5-0, 1-0 sweep at last-place West Texas A&M, giving the Pioneers (25-32, 11-13) the fourth and final berth from the division by virtue of their 3-1 series win over the Zias.
Still, interim coach Amber Daniel said her squad responded well after having dropped six of its previous eight and scoring only 23 runs in the process.
“The girls had kind of a gutcheck after (Tuesday’s non-conference split at College of the) Southwest,” she said. “We had a hard practice on Wednesday. We had to realize we’re not only playing for ourselves, but for a lot of people (involved with the school).”
Dickson (16-9) allowed only four players to reach base. The Zias scored an unearned run in the third without benefit of a hit, coming on Kristina Goodman’s sacrifice fly, before junior Alex Mayo Otis provided welcome insurance with a two-out, two-run homer to right-center in the sixth.
“I just wanted to work as hard as I could, and just tried to keep people off base,” said Dickson, who received several stellar defensive plays from her teammates. “Yesterday, I wanted to stay ahead of them (in the count), and I think they got used to it. Today, I tried to make them chase (pitches off the plate).”
Junior Natalie Jones (10-9) pitched well for Kingsville (32-18, 15-9), finishing with a four-hitter. Neither pitcher allowed a hit until the fourth.
“I just wanted to play hard for our (four) seniors,” Dickson said. “It’s a pride thing, because we’re Zias and we’re a team.
“We’ve had a good year, and I’m proud of how we’ve done. Amber and the assistant coaches have done a great job.”
Cruickshank (11-14) had a single and an RBI double in the second game. Kingsville got its only run of the day when right fielder Quesha Torres led off the fourth with her 10th homer of the season and third of the series.
ENMU took a 2-0 lead in the second on run-scoring singles by Anna Hershkowitz and Kelsey Kubik against sophomore Nora Aguilar (19-8), the winner in both games on Friday. The Zias then put together a three-run, four-hit fifth with RBI singles from Rebecca Quinones and Michelle Anderson and Cruickshank’s run-scoring double.
“They played really hard this weekend,” said Daniel, who led the Zias to a 17-12 record after taking over for Armando Quiroz in mid-March. “I have no complaints about this weekend.”