PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University baseball coach Phil Clabaugh decided to leave junior pitcher Corey Cole, nursing a groin injury, at home for last weekend’s Lone Star Conference series at Incarnate Word.
Turns out it was a pretty good move.
Cole, a right-hander from Glendale, Ariz., threw his best game of the season on Friday, pitching six shutout innings in a 12-3 LSC victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville at Greyhound Field.
Cole (1-3), who was also nursing a blister on one of his feet on Friday, left in the seventh with an 11-0 lead after giving up a leadoff single and falling behind 2-0 on Kingsville’s cleanup hitter, Adrian Williams.
“That’s one of the first times I’ve pulled a pitcher with a shutout,” said Clabaugh, in his 20th season at ENMU. “But we got more than we could’ve expected out of him.”
With the Hounds (4-15, 2-11 LSC) in position to end the game on the 10-run rule, the Javelinas took advantage of an error to plate three runs and keep the game going. ENMU had another chance to end it in the eighth with a run in and the bases loaded, but Javelinas pitcher Andrew Longoria induced a fielder’s choice grounder and an inning-ending double play.
While Cole was keeping the Javs (12-9, 9-7) in check, the Hounds broke through for six runs in the fourth and five more in the sixth.
“We swung the bats pretty well today,” Clabaugh said. “We made an error or two (late in the game), but I’m glad it happened when it did. It’s (usually) been happening to us with the game on the line.”
Catcher Dillon Downs, who drove in three runs, and first baseman Mitch Wolfe each went 4-for-5 as the Hounds pounded out 18 hits off three Kingsville hurlers. Everybody in the lineup hit safely, while eight players scored at least once and seven had at least one RBI.
It was more than enough for Cole.
“I felt good out there, and I executed my pitches,” Cole said. “I felt confident (with the big lead after the fourth). They (Hounds) were working for me, so I’ve just got to go out and work for them.”
ENMU’s first seven batters reached in the fourth against starter David De Leon (3-3) and reliever Nathan Humpal. Daniel Patching and Blake Thomsen, the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, capped the outburst with two-run doubles.
In the sixth, the Hounds strung together five consecutive one-out hits, including RBI doubles by Wolfe and Downs, followed by Luis Quinones’ sacrifice fly.
The teams complete their three-game series with a 1 p.m. doubleheader today.