Hounds headed for LSC tournament

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

Freddy Carmona’s neck hurts a little bit.

But the Eastern New Mexico University catcher won’t complain about
that. Or when his bicep got hit by a foul tip. Or when he had wrist
problems.

Tough to complain when first baseman/pitcher Seth Clabaugh lost
teeth when he collided with a post at Central Oklahoma. Or when
outfielder Jereme Johnson separated his shoulder. Or that shortstop
Garrett Cook still has numbness in his arm from being hit by a pitch.

And so on, but the Greyhounds are still a playoff team for the first time in 15 years despite the litany of injuries.

“I would say (we’re) pretty tough,” said Carmona, who’s batting .406
and is one hit away from tying his own school record for hits in a
season. “I’d definitely say we were tougher than previous teams I’ve
played for.”

As the Greyhounds (28-26, 23-21 Lone Star Conference) head into this
weekend’s Lone Star Conference tournament, hosted by Abilene Christian,
you can consider longtime coach Phil Clabaugh convinced.

“You name it and it’s happened to them, and yet they’ve been able to
play through that,” Clabaugh said. “I’m not trying to take away from
our squad, but I think we’re a hell of a lot tougher than we are
talented.”

The Greyhounds have won eight of their last 12, and are seeded fifth
in the six-team, double-elimination tournament, which begins Saturday
when No. 1 Cameron takes on Tarleton State in an 11 a.m. (CDT) affair.

The next game features ENMU against second-seeded Angelo State. The
Greyhounds split a four-game home series with the Rams in March, and
have an extra boost of confidence knowing that a bottom seed can win —
like last year, when Texas A&M-Kingsville beat ENMU by a half-game
in the standings for the No. 6 spot and won the tournament to advance
to the Division II regionals.

“I got to play some summer ball with Sam Strickland, who was a
pitcher for Kingsville last year,” Carmona said. “He was talking about
how good the team was looking. I told him all we have to do is get into
sixth place, and anything can happen.”

And anything does happen in the LSC championship, Phil Clabaugh said, having been a spectator in each previous tournament.

“The conference tournament does crazy things to everybody,” Clabaugh
said. “Pitchers throw a little harder, base-stealers run a little
faster.”

But the Rams are seeded second for good reason, Clabaugh said,
because they don’t give away at-bats and their pitchers don’t give a
lot of free passes.

“They’re going to put pressure on us from an offensive standpoint,”
he said. “They put the ball in play, and once they get there they can
make things happen with their overall team speed.”

Clabaugh thinks Carmona is the LSC’s best catcher, but Angelo
State’s Trey Carter is a close second. And then there’s designated
hitter Keith Towne, who Clabaugh half-jokingly calls “Babe Ruth” —
Towne has hit 25 home runs this season, two fewer than the entire
Greyhounds roster.

“You’ve got to keep a hitter like that off-balance,” Carmona said.
“If you’re going to go in, go in hard and make sure he can’t get it out
of the park.”

Seth Clabaugh is penciled in to start Saturday’s game.

“If we can get 15 outs with him and stay in the game,” Phil Clabaugh
said, “it will be a good call because I think our relief can take care
of it (from there).”

LSC tournament
At Abilene, Texas
Double elimination
(Seeds in parentheses)
All times MDT
Saturday
Game 1:
Cameron (1) vs. Tarleton State (6), 10 a.m.
Game 2: Angelo State (2) vs. Eastern New Mexico (5), 2 p.m.
Game 3: Abilene Christian (3) vs. Southeastern Oklahoma (4), 6 p.m.
Sunday
Game 4:
Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10 a.m.
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 loser, 2 p.m.
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m.
Remaining tournament schedule TBA