By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University baseball coach Phil Clabaugh isn’t worried about how other Lone Star Conference teams are faring. He’s concerned with how many games his squad can win down the stretch.
The Greyhounds got a complete game from junior right-hander Evan Orsak and pounded out 21 hits Sunday in burying Southwestern Oklahoma 17-1 at Greyhound Field, taking three of four in their LSC series against the Bulldogs.
ENMU (20-18, 13-15 LSC) moved up a notch to seventh place, but trails sixth-place Texas A&M-Kingsville (23-19, 18-14) by three games with three weeks left. The top six make the conference’s postseason tournament.
Clabaugh, who figured to make the tourney his squad needed to go 11-5 in its final four league series coming into the weekend, said the Hounds can only control so much.
“We’re at the point where we’re counting each win,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who we get them against.”
Orsak (4-4) struggled through a 24-pitch first inning, but benefited from the offensive eruption by the Hounds to toss his third complete game. The contest was shortened to 6 1/2 innings by a 10-run rule in effect in LSC games on Sunday.
Orsak lost his shutout with two out in the seventh.
“I was a little nervous going out there,” he said. “I was trying to be a little too fine, but after the first inning I settled down.”
ENMU broke a scoreless tie with a six-run second and batted around three times in the final five innings. Left fielder Clayton Young drove in five runs with two doubles and a single, while catcher Freddy Carmona went 4-for-4 and was a home run short of the cycle.
“That made things a little easier,” Orsak said of the offense. “When they score like that, it’s a lot easier to pitch.”
The Hounds were solid all around. Sophomore shortstop Sean Cruce, slowed by flu-like symptoms early in the week, delivered three hits from the No. 9 slot and several good defensive plays.
“That’s the best he’s played since he’s been a part of our program,” Clabaugh said.
Designated hitter Paden Vendrely went 3-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice fly.
Clabaugh said Saturday’s doubleheader sweep, capped by senior third baseman Derrick Kennedy’s walk-off homer for a 9-8 win in the nightcap, gave the Hounds a lift and may have been a downer for the Bulldogs (9-27, 7-24).
ENMU hosts New Mexico Highlands in a 6 p.m. non-league game on Tuesday, then travels to Ada, Okla., for a four-game weekend set against East Central.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” Clabaugh said. “I feel pretty confident in our ability to get through a weekend (series).”