Freedom New Mexico: Mickey Winfield Eastern New Mexico University senior right-hander Nicole Dickson earned her second win of the season with four innings of one-run ball in the nightcap as the Zias swept New Mexico Highlands on Friday at Zia Softball Field.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Anna Hershkowitz wasn’t exactly worried about a slow start with the bat this season, but she took care of it with a huge day Friday.
The Eastern New Mexico University senior first baseman went 5-for-6 with a double, two homers and six RBIs as the Zias cruised to an 8-0, 12-4 sweep of New Mexico Highlands at Zia Softball Field, both games ending in the bottom of the fifth on the eight-run rule.
Hershkowitz, who compiled a .306 average in 72 at-bats last season, collected just one hit in the season-opening St. Mary’s Classic last weekend at San Antonio, and entered Friday’s games at .222 (4-for-18).
“My bat is finally coming to life,” said Hershkowitz, who is from Scottsdale, Ariz. “I hadn’t really been contributing to any of our (previous) wins.”
The Zias (6-3) stretched their winning streak to six against a Highlands squad playing its first games of the season. Batting ninth in the opener, Hershkowitz hit a one-out homer in the second, added an RBI single in the third and led off the fifth with another single before eventually scoring the game-ending run on Haley Hays’ infield hit to deep short.
Moved up to the No. 7 hole in game 2, Hershkowitz hit a two-run double in the second and a two-run homer in the fourth before finally being retired in her final at-bat on a screaming liner to second.
She said she wasn’t focused on her perfect day at the plate in her last at-bat.
“I try not to think about that,” she said. “I just go out here and swing. It feels good, just to hit the ball hard.”
Zias assistant coach Tracy Jordan said it was a matter of time for Hershkowitz.
“She was looking for that one (big) game,” Jordan said. “She just kept taking good swings.”
The Zias received eight walks in the opener. Three came in the first, and catcher Ashley Oliver made the Cowgirls pay with a two-out, two-run single on a 3-2 pitch.
Junior left-hander Natalie Woodside (2-2) allowed three hits over four innings, and also helped her cause with a run-scoring single.
The Zias went down in order in the first inning of the nightcap, but reached Highlands’ Dominique Gonzales for 10 runs on 11 hits over the next two innings to erase a 1-0 deficit. Michelle Anderson and Casandra McCommons were both 3-for-3 for the Zias, while Herskowitz was one of five Zias with two hits.
Senior Nicole Dickson (2-0) allowed five hits and an unearned run in four innings.
Jordan, a four-year player at second base for ENMU (2003-06), said while the Zias don’t have that many home dates, they’re determined to protect their turf.
“One of the goals the girls set at the beginning of the season was not to lose at home,” Jordan said.
ENMU swept College of the Southwest on Wednesday, and hosts Oklahoma Panhandle State in a noon twin bill today. After that, they have only three three-game Lone Star Conference South Division series at home.
The winning streak started with a 1-0 victory over No. 17-ranked Midwestern State at St. Mary’s.
“The Midwestern game did a lot for our confidence,” Jordan said. “The girls are really focused on their goals this year, but right now we’re focusing on taking it one game at a time.”