ENMU BASEBALL: Hounds hope depth is OK

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson ENMU baseball coach Phil Clabaugh points out mechanics with redshirt Lane Drake, a freshman pitcher from Clovis, during Saturday’s practice. The Greyhounds are slated to open at home on Tuesday against Wayland Baptist.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

PORTALES — You need 23, and you’ll need at least 18 to do it.

That’s the math longtime Eastern New Mexico University baseball coach Phil Clabaugh is hoping for, as a thinned-down squad seeks its second-straight Lone Star Conference tournament berth.

Last year’s squad, which finished 28-28, won three of four against West Texas A&M on the last weekend of the regular season to move past a logjam of late-season contenders to earn a playoff berth. Their LSC win total — 23, against 21 losses.

Clabaugh figures that’s the same amount the Greyhounds will need to win out of 44 conference games. Six of their 11 four-game conference series are on the road.

The day-to-day infield is a little thinner this year, even if Clabaugh thinks it’s talented enough to throw out a plethora of different lineups.

“We don’t have much depth,” Clabaugh said. “That’s been disappointing from a practice standpoint because we haven’t been able to get good looks.”

But Clabaugh said you need 18 players — 12 position players, six pitchers — to have a competitive team, and the rest is filling in holes. He’s confident he’s got just enough in each department.

“We have a solid staff,” senior catcher Paden Vendrely said, “and they’re going to help us a lot.”

When the Hounds start Tuesday against Wayland Baptist — if weather conditions cooperate, and Clabaugh wasn’t brimming with confidence Saturday — they’ll likely have junior Doug McIntyre joining returning starters Russell Campbell and Justin Cotten in the pitching rotation.

“McIntyre has stepped up,” Clabaugh said, “and, at least for the month of February, given himself a chance to start.”

If his hamstring cooperates, Anthony Smith, a 6-4, 210-pound transfer from Cal-State Stanislaus, could climb up the rotation quickly.

“That’s the best arm since (former ENMU standout Gabe) DeHoyos,” Clabaugh said of Smith and his 94-mph fastball. “I don’t know how we got him.”

While the infield is thin, Clabaugh said, he’s got plenty of players who are interchangeable. Jereme Johnson, an honorable mention All-American who set single-season records for batting average (.472) and on-base percentage (.553), is a lock in the outfield, but additions such as Las Cruces freshman Luis Quinones could split time in the infield and outfield.

Though the Hounds graduated 12 seniors from last season’s playoff squad, Clabaugh thinks the nine seniors coming back can push Eastern above its preseason ranking of seventh in the 12-team LSC.

“For the last few years, we’ve been pretty competitive,” Clabaugh said. “We’ve got some that are old enough to know what goes on in this league.”

Count Vendrely among them, as he wasn’t even aware — or affected — by the preseason prediction.

“We don’t expect much respect, going to Eastern,” Vendrely said. “We don’t really pay attention to that stuff. We just go out and play.”

ENMU BASEBALL
Schedule
February

2 — Wayland Baptist, 1 p.m.; 5 — New Mexico Highlands, 2 p.m.; 6 — at New Mexico Highlands (2), noon; 7 — New Mexico Highlands, 1 p.m.; 12 — Southeastern Oklahoma (2), 2 p.m.-x; 13 — Southeastern Oklahoma (2), 1 p.m.-x; 19 — at Cameron, noon-x; 20 — at Cameron (2), 11 a.m.-x; 21 — at Cameron, 11 a.m.-x; 26 —Tarleton State (2), 2 p.m.-x; 27 — Tarleton State (2), 1 p.m.-x.
March
2 — New Mexico Highlands, 6 p.m.; 5 — Texas A&M-Kingsville (2), 2 p.m.-x; 6 — Texas A&M-Kingsville (2), 1 p.m.-x; 9 — at University of the Southwest, 1 p.m.; 12 — at Angelo State (2), 3 p.m.-x; 13 — at Angelo State (2), noon-x; 15 — Texas-Permian Basin, 4 p.m.; 16 — Texas-Permian Basin, 1 p.m.; 19 — at Abilene Christian, 6:05 p.m.-x; 20 — at Abilene Christian (2), 1:05 p.m.-x; 21 — at Abilene Christian, noon-x; 23 — at New Mexico Highlands, 2 p.m.; 26 — Southwestern Oklahoma (2), 4 p.m.-x; 27 — Southwestern Oklahoma (2), 1 p.m.-x.
April
2 — at East Central (2), 11 a.m.-x; 3 — at East Central (2), 11 a.m.-x; 9 — Central Oklahoma, 6 p.m.-x; 10 — Central Oklahoma (2), 2 p.m.-x; 11 — Central Oklahoma, 1 p.m.-x; 13 — University of the Southwest, 6 p.m.; 16 — at Northeastern State (2), noon-x; 17 — at Northeastern State (2), noon-x; 19 — at Wayland Baptist, noon; 23 — at West Texas A&M (2), 3 p.m.-x; 24 — at West Texas A&M (2), noon-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference games.

Roster
1 Luis Quinones, Fr. OF, Las Cruces; 4 Garrett Cook, Sr. IF, Deming; 6 Chris Eaton, Jr. IF, Albuquerque; 8 Matt Nilo, Jr. Util, Aledo, Texas; 9 Paden Vendrely, Sr. C, Deming; 11 Jerry Manning, Sr. RHP, Cypress, Texas; 12 Tyler Vance, Fr. LHP, Amarillo; 14 Sean Cruce, Sr. IF, Clovis; 15 Kevin Thompson, Jr. IF, La Canada, Calif.
16 Chris Martinez, Fr. OF/LHP, Bayard; 17 Ryan Mitchell, So. RHP, Snyder, Texas; 18 Mike Medina, So. IF, Las Cruces; 19 Justin Cotten, Jr. RHP, Dallas; 20 Juan Sanchez, Sr. RPH, Las Cruces; 23. Mario rodriguez, Jr. LPH, El Paso; 24 Brandt Guyer, Fr. C, Amarillo; 26 Ricardo Martinez, So. RHP, Albuquerque; 28 Tyrel Orgega, Fr. RHP, Las Cruces.
32 Randy Baca, Fr. OF, Las Cruces; 33 Mitch Wolfe, So. IF, Litchfield Park, Ariz.; 34 Jereme Johnson, Sr. OF, Roswell; 35 Russell Campbell, Sr. RHP, Sachse, Texas; Trey Polston, Jr. RHP, Austin, Texas; 37. Doug McIntyre, Jr. RHP, Houston; 41 Anthony Smith, Jr. RHP, 29 Palms, Calif.; 44 Ethan Wagner, Sr. OF, San Antonio; 51 Richard Lewis, So. RHP, The Colony, Texas.
Coach: Phil Clabaugh (19th year). Graduate assistants: Seth Clabaugh, Daniel Martinez.