DENTON, Texas — Finally, after scoring only two runs on 19 hits — two doubles and 17 singles — Eastern New Mexico University’s bats broke out on Saturday.
It almost wasn’t enough.
The Zias, who had already dropped the first three games of their Lone Star Conference South Division series with Texas Woman’s, put together a five-run seventh on five hits to break up a scoreless tie. They then watched the Pioneers respond with their own five-spot to force extra innings, leaving runners at second and third.
Senior right fielder Kelsey Kubik then delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth and the Zias added an insurance run on a Pioneers error for a 7-5 victory. Texas Woman’s won the opener 5-1.
The Zias (26-24, 9-11 South) held on to fourth place in their bid to make to LSC tournament by salvaging the finale, but now have both Abilene Christian (24-21, 10-14) and Texas Woman’s (21-32, 7-13) on their tails. While Abilene Christian has finished its regular season, ENMU hosts Texas A&M-Kingsville next weekend and the Pioneers visit last-place West Texas A&M in four-game series.
The Zias probably need a split against Kingsville to cement a berth in the tournament.
Obviously, the Pioneers (21-32, 7-13 South) don’t play as well every weekend as they did against Eastern. Their pitching was outstanding virtually all weekend.
Senior Lindsy Russ-Keller, who shut ENMU out 1-0 on Friday, gave up Valerie Villela’s RBI single in the second but went on to pitch a five-hitter. Left fielder Angela Arebalos gave Texas Woman’s a 3-1 lead with a solo homer, her fourth, in the fourth inning and then doubled home a run and later scored in the sixth.
Freshman Kristen Cruickshank (10-12) shut out the Pioneers on four hits through six innings, then survived the nerve-racking bottom of the seventh to get the win in the nightcap. Kubik and Goodman also drove in runs in the seventh, and second baseman Rebecca Quinones capped the rally with a two-run single.
Both rallies, ironically, started after the first batter had been retired. Cruickshank still had a 5-1 lead with two outs and the bases loaded, but the Pioneers tied it on a run-scoring infield hit by Tiffanie Boone, a two-run single by Kaley Frye and an RBI single to left by Billie Callahan.
The Zias did all their damage in the eighth with two outs. Anna Hershkowitz beat out an infield hit, took second on Casandra McCommon’s single and scored when Kubik drilled a hit up the middle. Pioneers second baseman Chelsey Reilly then threw wildly past first on Kristina Goodman’s grounder, allowing McCommons to score.