Split keeps Hounds alive in bid for LSC tourney

CNJ staff

AMARILLO — Eastern New Mexico University’s struggling baseball team did just enough Friday to stay alive for a berth in the Lone Star Conference tournament.

The Greyhounds eked out a 9-8 win over rival West Texas A&M in the first game of a doubleheader, then dropped the second game 11-4. The Hounds (22-27, 20-22 LSC) are two games behind Tarleton State (24-22, 20-18), which swept a doubleheader at regular-season champion Abilene Christian 4-3 and 13-7.

ENMU has to sweep today’s noon (MDT) twin bill at WT and hope Abilene Christian, which has already clinched the top seed in the tourney, can do likewise against the Texans. If that happens, and if Northeastern State (22-27, 18-22) doesn’t sweep twin bills today and Sunday at home against Central Oklahoma, the Hounds would win a tiebreaker over Tarleton — they beat the Texans three out of four earlier in the season — for final spot in the six-team tournament.

Northeastern State’s only hope is to sweep UCO and force a three-way tie, which would give the RiverHawks the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Jerry Manning (7-2) worked his way through six innings for the win in the seven-inning opener, with Tony Smith striking out two in the seventh to earn his eighth save.

The Hounds scored four runs in the third for a 9-5 lead, getting RBI singles from Garrett Cook, Luis Quinones and Sean Cruce, but starter Chris Shands (5-5) blanked them the rest of the way on just two hits.

WT (21-20, 14-19), which was eliminated from tourney consideration on Friday, pulled to 9-7 with two runs in the fourth. But with runners at first and third and no one out in the sixth, Manning induces a 4-6-3 double play from first baseman Rob Mann, allowing a run to score, before getting Riley Deaver on a line drive to center.

Smith gave up a two-out single in the seventh, but struck out the Buffs’ Heath Baker to end it.

Right-hander Trey Polston (1-2), making his first start of the season after 13 relief appearances, settled down after a three-run first and allowed only one more run over the next four innings. In the sixth, though, third baseman Riley Tubbs hit a two-out, two-run homer to left-center for a 6-4 lead that the Buffs never relinquished.

Designated hitter Elliot Burrow’s three-run homer highlighted a four-run Buffs seventh. Meantime, P.J. Granado relieved starter Colin Carter with a run in, two on and no one out in the fourth and pitched six shutout innings for the win, allowing four hits and striking out five.

WT hit five homers in the two games to none for ENMU, and outhit the Hounds 30-18.