Adams State’s Lindsey Marsh slides around the tap of ENMU shortstop Valerie “Bulldog” Villela to steal third base during the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Zia Softball Field. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — There’s nothing like a nice little cushion to make a pitcher feel comfortable.
Eastern New Mexico University freshman Kristen Cruickshank was the beneficiary of an early onslaught by the Zias in the first game, then took matters into her own hands in the second.
Cruickshank picked up wins in both games and delivered four hits at the plate as ENMU beat Adams State 8-3 and 3-2 on Tuesday at Zia Softball Field. The second game went eight innings.
Cruickshank (9-11) effectively scattered 12 hits in the opener, riding the Zias’ six-run first fueled by three Adams State errors. She walked none and struck out a season-high five, also getting help from three ENMU double plays following leadoff singles by the Grizzlies.
“I like pitching with some runs behind me, because then if something goes wrong you have some insurance,” Cruickshank said. “I wouldn’t say it was one of my best games, but I threw pretty well.”
In the second game, as the designated player, she hit a game-tying RBI triple in the fourth and gave the Zias (25-21) a shortlived 2-1 lead with a two-out homer in the sixth. The Grizzlies (16-25) then pulled even in the seventh when Heather Ebert led off with a double, took third on a lineout to center and scored on Kim Ensey’s smash RBI single off third baseman Casandra McCommons’ glove.
Cruickshank relieved starter Nicole Dickson in the eighth. With the international tie-breaker rule (runner at second to start the inning) in effect in extra innings, she retired three consecutive hitters on seven pitches to keep it 2-2.
Kristina Goodman then bunted Kelsey Kubik to third to start the Zias’ eighth, and shortstop Valerie Villela lined a single to the fence in right-center to end it.
The Zias took command of the opener in the first, getting RBI singles from Michelle Anderson, Cruickshank and Anna Hershkowitz and a two-run, bases-loaded single from Kubik. McCommons also scored on the play on an error.
They made it 8-0 in the third with two more runs. All but one of the runs off Bethany Hamar (8-9) were unearned.
“That first inning really hurt us,” Adams State coach Cari Boe said. “Both games were hard-fought by both teams.
“They (Zias) did a nice job. They have a good ballclub.”
Zias interim coach Amber Daniel thought her team was a little flat after taking three of four over the weekend from Abilene Christian in a key Lone Star Conference South Division series.
“We couldn’t get up,” said Daniel, who has led ENMU to a 12-5 record since taking over in mid-March when coach Armando Quiroz returned to Arizona for family reasons. “The girls are a little tired.
“I’m not disappointed because we got the wins, but we have some things to work on.”
The Zias play four games at Texas Woman’s this weekend, then close with a four-game set against Texas A&M-Kingsville April 27-28. They are currently well-positioned for one of the four spots from the South in the upcoming LSC tournament.
“We’re going into a very important weekend,” Daniel said. “I think if the girls come out the way they did against Abilene, we should be OK.”