CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks ENMU first baseman Taylor Howard scoops up a low throw from a teammate during Friday’s practice session at Zia Field. Howard is the only senior on the Zias’ roster.
PORTALES — In her first season as Eastern New Mexico University’s softball coach, things didn’t always go the way Lauren Sigwing hoped.
The Zias (16-37 in 2010) managed to post Lone Star Conference South wins over West Texas A&M and Texas Woman’s, both conference tournament qualifiers, but they finished a distant last in the division at 3-15.
Sigwing said she fully expected her team to be picked for last place again this spring, and she was right. She’s confident, though, the Zias will put a better product on the field.
“I expect us to be better,” she said. “We’re pretty young, but we’re a more complete team than last year. We’re more balanced offensively, and better defensively for sure.”
ENMU is scheduled to play five games in three days beginning Thursday in a season-opening tournament hosted by St. Mary’s at San Antonio.
Only a handful of players return from last season. Taylor Howard, the team’s lone senior, should start at first base after splitting time last season.
Meantime, sophomore utility player Amanda Lale will pitch out of the bullpen, serve as the designated player at times and spot-play in the field, while sophomore Brittany Widner will be one of Sigwing’s two main starters in the circle, along with junior college transfer Erin Roufosse.
“I expect them to carry the load,” Sigwing said of Widner and Roufosse, both right-handers. “I look for Amanda and (freshman righty) Tessa (Fioritti) to work in relief.”
Howard batted .195 with one homer and 10 RBIs last season, but she expects more production from herself.
“I’m the only senior and a lot of girls are looking up to me,” said Howard, a transfer last year from her hometown Midland (Texas) College. “I feel I need to be a leader, but I feel a lot more confident.”
Junior college transfers Kate Medrano and Paige Colburn man second and shortstop, respectively, with another transfer, junior Emily Livingston, at third. Colburn played for Sigwing two years ago at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College.
“She has tons of potential,” Sigwing said of Livingston. “She has great range and a good arm on defense, and she can do everything at the plate.”
Sigwing said Livingston is a solid defensive player and a contact hitter.
Fioritti and Leal, who batted .338 with four homers in 77 at-bats last season, are top candidates in right field, with juco transfers Devin Higgins in center and Melanie Alderette in left.
The catcher is expected to be freshman Morgan Miller.
“I expect her to handle most of the load,” Sigwing said. “She’s been able to pick up the college game really quick.”
Medrano and Lale will probably supply most of the team’ long-ball power, she added.
Howard said the Zias need the right mental approach if they hope to make some noise in the LSC this season.
“We need to go into every game confident,” she said. “We just have to be mentally tough and know we’re capable of doing anything.”
Sigwing said her immediate goal is to be positioned to make the LSC’s postseason tournament.
“If we can do that, we’ll have a chance to go further,” she said. “Depth is a concern, so we need to stay healthy.”
The Zias are open next week, then participate in three consecutive weekend tournaments before their home opener on March 9, a doubleheader against University of the Southwest.
3-5 — at St. Mary’s tournament (3 vs. St. Edward’s, 3 p.m., and vs. Cameron, 5 p.m.; 4 — vs. Texas-Permian Basin, noon, and vs. Texas A&M International, 2 p.m.; 5 — vs. St. Mary’s, 11 a.m.); 18-19 — at Midwestern State tournament (18 vs. Texas Woman’s, noon, and vs. Midwestern State, 2 p.m.; 19 — vs. Missouri Southern, 8 a.m., and vs. Drury, 10 a.m.); 25-26 — at Texas-Permian Basin triangular (25 vs. East Central, 1 p.m., and vs. Texas-Permian Basin, 3 p.m.; 26 vs. East Central, 10:30 a.m., and vs. Texas-Permian Basin, 2:30 p.m.).
4-5 — at West Texas A&M tournament (4 vs. Washburn, 12:30 p.m., and vs. West Texas A&M, 3 p.m.; 5 vs. Washburn, 12:30 p.m., and vs. West Texas A&M, 3 p.m.); 9 — University of the Southwest (2), 1 p.m.; 11 — Abilene Christian, 3 p.m.-x; 12 — Abilene Christian (2), noon-x; 18 — at Texas Woman’s (2), 3 p.m.-x; 19 — Texas Woman’s, 11 a.m.-x; 22 — at New Mexico Highlands (2), 1 p.m.; 23 — Texas-Permian Basin (2), 2 p.m.; 25 — Texas A&M-Kingsville (2), 2 p.m.-x; 26 — Texas A&M-Kingsville, noon-x.
1-3 — LSC crossover tournament at San Angelo, Texas (1 vs. Southwestern Oklahoma, 2 p.m.; 2 vs. Cameron, noon, and vs. East Central, 2 p.m.; 3 vs. Southeastern Oklahoma, 9 a.m., and vs. Northeastern State, 11 a.m.); 8 — at Angelo State, 6 p.m.-x; 9 — at Angelo State (2), noon-x; 13 — at Oklahoma Panhandle State (2), 1 p.m.; 15 — Tarleton State (2), 2 p.m.-x; 16 — Tarleton State, noon-x; 19 — New Mexico Highlands (2), 2 p.m.; 22 — Incarnate Word (2), 2 p.m.-x; 23 — Incarnate Word, noon-x; 29 — at West Texas A&M (2), 3 p.m.-x; 30 — at West Texas A&M, noon-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference South Division games.
1 Melanie Alderette, OF, Jr., Albuquerque; 2 Amanda Marquez, OF, Fr., Portales; 3 Shelby Lopez, OF, Fr., Albuquerque; 4 Paige Colburn, SS, Jr., Prairie Village, Kan.; 5 Daniel Mendoza, IF, Fr., Lubbock; 6 Samantha Emms, C/IF, Fr., Albuquerque.
7 Amanda Lale, RHP/Util, So., Mesquite, Texas; 8 Tonya Crockett, C, Fr., Rocklin, Calif.; 9 Tessa Fioritti, RHP/OF, Fr., Calgary, Alberta; 11 Erin Roufosse, RHP, Jr., Gibsons, British Columbia; 12 Emily Livingston, 3B, Jr., Corinth, Texas; 13 Morgan Miller, C, Fr., Bay City, Texas.
14 Devin Higgins, OF, Jr., Reno, Nev.; 15 Brittany Widner, RHP, So., Waxahatchie, Texas; 16 Kate Medrano, 2B, Jr., Tecumseh, Kan.; 21 Taylor Howard, 1B, Sr., Midland, Texas; 22 Aubrey Bassham, IF, Fr., Albuquerque.
Coach: Lauren Sigwing, 2nd season (16-37). Graduate assistants: Megan Cairns, Ryan Pruitt.