Zias settle for Sunday split

Freedom New Mexico

PHOENIX — Facing a struggling Western New Mexico squad, the Eastern New Mexico University softball team was set to close out a 4-1 run through the Schutt Sports Division II Leadoff Classic on Sunday.

Then the roof fell in.

With ENMU leading 10-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Western then loaded the bases with one out. A fielder’s choice scored a run but produced the second out.

A walk and six consecutive hits followed, and the stunning eight-run rally lifted Western (2-6) to an 11-10 victory.

Earlier, ENMU (5-5) run-ruled Lacey, Wash.-based St. Martin’s 9-1.

Junior pitcher-first baseman Kristen Cruickshank had a huge weekend. She earned the pitching victory in two games, including Sunday’s five-inning opener against the Saints, and also homered in each of the five games — six in all, giving her seven roundtrippers for the season.

Alex Mayo Otis and Cruickshank hit back-to-back, one-out homers in the bottom of the seventh on Saturday as the Zias edged Montana State-Billings 6-5. Then Cruickshank, who is batting .514 (18-for-35), went deep twice to drive in four runs in a 5-3 victory over previously unbeaten Dixie State later Saturday.

In Sunday’s first game against St. Martin’s, ENMU nursed a 1-0 lead on Mayo Otis’ first-inning RBI single into the top of the fifth. The Zias erupted for eight runs on seven hits, highlighted by a two-run double to right-center by Josette Aguirre, a two-run single by Michelle Williams and Cruickshank’s two-run homer to left-center.

Cruickshank carried a three-hit shutout into the bottom of the inning, but gave up a leadoff homer to senior catcher Kaci Hernandez and two singles before finishing it off.

Cruickshank then posted her second six-RBI game of the season, raising her total to 23 so far, with a 3-for-5 performance at the plate against Western. She gave the Zias a 3-1 lead with a three-run homer in the third, doubled home two more in a six-run fourth that made it 9-2 and added an RBI single in the sixth.

Kimberly Crouse (2-4) relieved starter Brittany Regalado in the third and allowed four hits and a run over the next four innings.

The Zias open the home portion of their schedule with noon doubleheaders against Texas-Permian Basin on Thursday and Oklahoma Panhandle State on Friday.