By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
When asked who would be the toughest Lone Star Conference challenges for Eastern New Mexico University’s softball squad, senior Alex Mayo Otis started the list, but paused after the first three.
“Pretty much, I could name all of them,” said Mayo Otis, a three-time All-LSC South Division selection. “There aren’t many teams (you can relax against) in the Lone Star Conference.”
The Zias, coming off a 24-23 finish in 2009, hope they can soon be counted among that conversation, but they’ll have to turn around a 2-15 LSC South mark to do it. New coach Lauren Sigwing takes over a team that finished above .500, so she’s optimistic that the program won’t have to start from scratch.
“I’m really excited about the team I’ve inherited,” said Sigwing, who guided Fort Scott Community College to a 36-23 record last season before taking the Zias’ job. “It’s a very talented group, for sure.”
The squad is scheduled to open the season with a 12:30 p.m. doubleheader at New Mexico Highlands. The games were originally scheduled for Portales, but was moved due to field conditions resulting from Thursday’s inclement weather. The softball field has not been usable since then.
Sigwing said while the situation’s not ideal, the team has been able to use indoor practice facilities to do pitching and hitting work.
“I think the weight room has helped us a lot,” said Mayo Otis, speaking from a new weight room adjacent to the softball field that would outclass a lot of 24-hour gyms.
The Zias last scrimmaged Wednesday, and for only three innings, but Sigwing said she liked what she saw.
She said there’s a lot of experience on the roster. On offense, there’s Mayo Otis, who batted .381 with five homers and 37 RBIs and was one of NCAA Division II’s toughest player to strike out last year with two in 160 at-bats.
In the circle, Eastern returns starters Kristen Cruickshank and Kimberly Crouse. Sigwing thinks freshmen Brittany Widner and Amanda Lale will see time as well.
“Defensively, we could get sharper,” Sigwing said, “but I don’t think that’s unusual for anybody at this time of the year.”
Cruickshank is confident whoever is in the circle should receive plenty of run support.
“Ideally, (we’d want to allow) one run or none, but things happen,” Cruickshank said. “We have a good 14 girls, and all of them can hit.”
2 — at New Mexico Highlands (2), 12:30 p.m.; 4-6 — at St. Mary’s Classic (4 vs. Texas A&M-International, 11:30 a.m., and vs. Incarnate Word, 1:45 p.m.; 5 vs. Cameron, 8:15 a.m., and vs. Midwestern State,12:45 p.m.; 6 vs. St. Edward’s, 9:30 a.m.); 12 — at Lubbock Christian (2), 1 p.m.; 13 — Lubbock Christian (2), noon; 19-21 — Regional crossover at Hays, Kan. (19 vs. Washburn, 11 a.m., and vs. Neb.-Omaha, 1:30 p.m.; 20 vs. Emporia State, 9 a.m.; vs. Pittsburg State, 11 a.m., and vs. Washburn, 3:30 p.m.; 21 vs. Fort Hays State, 9 a.m.); 28 — at Oklahoma Panhandle State (2), noon.
5-6 — at West Texas A&M tournament (5 vs. Central Oklahoma, 11 a.m., and vs. West Texas A&M, 3 p.m.; 6 vs. Washburn, 11 a.m.); 12 — at Texas A&M-Kingsville (2), 5 p.m.-x; 13 — at Texas A&M-Kingsville, noon-x; 17 — St. Edward’s (2), 1 p.m.; 20 — Angelo State (2), 1 p.m.-x; 21 — Angelo State, 1 p.m.-x; 22 — at Colo.-Colorado Springs (2), 2 p.m.; 23 — at Adams State (2), 2 p.m.; 26-28 — LSC crossover tournament at Durant, Okla. (26 vs. East Central, 10 a.m., nd vs. Southwestern Oklahoma, noon; 27 vs. Northeastern State, 11:30 a.m., and vs. Southastern Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m.; 28 vs. Midwestern State, 9 a.m., and vs. Cameron, 1:30 p.m.).
2 — at Tarleton State (2), 12:30 p.m.-x; 3 — at Tarleton State, 11 a.m.-x; 6 — at Texas-Permian Basin (2), noon; 13 — Oklahoma Panhandle State (2), 1 p.m.; 16 — West Texas A&M, 3 p.m.-x; 17 — West Texas A&M (2), 1 p.m.-x; 21 — New Mexico Highlands (2), 1 p.m.; 23 — at Abilene Christian (2), 4 p.m.-x; 24 — at Abilene Christian, 11 a.m.-x.
1 — Texas Woman’s (2), noon-x; 2 — Texas Woman’s, 11 a.m.-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference South Division games.
1 Kimberly Crouse, Sr. RHP/IF, Round Rock, Texas; 2 Jessica Childers, Sr. OF, Sierra Vista, Ariz.; 4 Samantha Davis, So. C, Farmington; 5 Melissa Williams, So. IF/OF, Sierra Vista, Ariz.; 6 Kassandra Sanchez, Jr. OF, Albuquerque; 7 Amanda Lala, Fr. IF/OF, Mesquite, Texas; 8 Kandice Kaiser, Fr. IF/OF, Albuquerque.
10 Michelle Anderson, Sr. C, Sierra Vista, Ariz.; 11 Alex Mayo Otis, Sr. OF, Phoenix; 14 Kristen Cruickshank, Sr. RHP/IF, Glendale, Ariz.; 15 Brittany Widner, Fr. RHP, Waxahachie, Texas; 17 Rebecca Quinones, Sr. IF, Gilbert, Ariz.; 20 Josette Aguirre, Jr. OF, Moriarty; 21 Taylor Howard, Jr. IF/OF, Midland, Texas.
Coach: Lauren Sigwing (1st year). Graduate assistants: Kristina Goodman, Jeana Boyd.