Zias continue early-season success

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — Acting Eastern New Mexico University softball coach Amber Daniel is off to a nice start in her new role.

The Zias improved to 7-3 under Daniel, a graduate assistant who has taken over the team while head coach Armando Quiroz recovers from ankle surgery over the next few weeks, with a 6-5, 10-0 sweep of Adams State on Wednesday at Zia Softball Field.

ENMU (8-7) completed a 5-3 homestand, and moved within three wins of equaling its total for all of last season.

Junior Tracy Jordan won a game in the Zias’ final at-bat for the third time on the homestand with a seventh-inning single in the opener. Then Tori Picazo’s three-run homer broke a scoreless tie in the third inning of the nightcap, and the Zias went on to run-rule the Grizzlies (2-2) with a seven-run fourth.

“The momentum just carried into the second game,” Daniel said. “The second game is what we’re capable of doing (offensively).”

Junior Patricia Gonzales (3-3) pitched her second shutout of the season, allowing five singles in the five-inning contest.

Her only strikeout came when ASC’s Kelly Hager fouled off a two-strike bunt attempt to lead off the game.

Gonzales said the homestand gave the Zias some confidence.

“I thought as a team we played well,” she said. “We hit the ball well, and our defense really picked up.”

Picazo’s home run to right-center, her third of the season, came two batters after the Grizzlies failed to turn what would have been an inning-ending double play.

“They (Zias) were ready to play,” said ASC coach Cari Boe, whose team swept its season-opening doubleheader on Tuesday at College of the Southwest. “They have a nice team and some good hitters.

“They kind of had momentum (after the first game). We just didn’t get anything going on offense.”

Picazo picked up a fourth RBI with a fourth-inning single. Only two of the runs off Jessica McLaughlin (0-1) were earned in that inning as Adams State committed a couple of costly errors.

The runs made things easier for Gonzales.

“The (cold) weather doesn’t affect my game, but I like it warmer,” she said. “I knew my offense would come through.”

In the opener, the Zias built a 5-0 first-inning lead on Elizabeth Whipkey’s two-run double, RBI singles by Jordan and Adina Taul and a run-scoring groundout by Kristin MacRunnels. ASC came back with a two-run homer by Bobbi Scott and a two-run double by Jacquie Rhomberg in he fourth, and tied it in the sixth on an unearned run.

In the seventh, Tina Whitt hit an infield single, moved around to third on a wild pitch and Picazo’s sacrifice bunt and scored when Jordan dropped a soft single into left-center.

ENMU’s Amanda Nightingale (4-1) allowed seven hits and struck out nine.

The Zias leave today for the Lone Star Conference First Pitch Tournament at Irving, Texas. They play two games against teams from the LSC North on both Friday and Saturday.

“It’ll be a big test,” Daniel said. “We’ll see what we need to work on and (get an idea) how well we’ll do for the rest of the season.”