PORTALES — If the Eastern New Mexico University baseball team is going to make it to the Lone Star Conference postseason tournament for the first time, the Greyhounds will need a good April.
With four four-game conference series remaining, the Hounds (17-17, 10-14 LSC) are tied for eighth with Northeastern State in the 12-team conference. They are chasing Texas A&M-Kingsville (15-13) and Tarleton State (13-15) to make it to the top six.
The Hounds figure it will take 11 wins in the 16 games.
“I think we have to take it one game at a time,” said junior catcher-designated hitter Freddy Carmona, second on the team with a .389 average. “We can’t take anyone lightly.”
Carmona, who was hitting near .500 in early March, said the Hounds have been pressing lately.
“I’m starting to think (at the plate) instead of react,” said Carmona, a transfer from Ranger Junior College. “I just need to go back to the mindset of seeing the ball, hitting the ball.”
The Hounds, who open a series against Southwestern Oklahoma with a 7 p.m. game today at Greyhound Field, are coming off a tough stretch in which they dropped seven of eight on the road against the league’s top two teams, Angelo State and Abilene Christian.
Veteran coach Phil Clabaugh said the Hounds have had several players working through flu-like symptoms. They’re also dealing with some nagging injuries, including a thumb injury to shortstop Kevin Thompson suffered at Abilene Christian that likely will keep the freshman out for the rest of the season.
He agrees with Carmona that his squad has to play it game-to-game.
“This is like a pennant race of sorts,” Clabaugh said. “We’ve got four weeks and things can change week to week, but we need to focus on the game Friday night.
“Do I think we’ve got a shot (to make the tournament)? Yes, I do. This is the best shot we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Carmona said the team had a meeting after Saturday’s doubleheader loss to Abilene Christian. The Hounds came back and pulled out Sunday’s series finale 7-6.
“It was pointed out that everyone needs to step up,” Carmona said. “After that meeting, I think we came together.
“We just need to keep playing together, and we need guys to be comfortable at the plate.”
Three of ENMU’s remaining series are against the teams behind them in the standings; the fourth is here April 18-20 against third-place Central Oklahoma.
There are no guarantees, of course — ENMU has lost nine in a row to Southwestern (8-24, 6-21) dating to the 2005 season.
Clabaugh wants to see his team earn its way to the tournament.
“I told my team that the Lone Star Conference tournament is meant for the elite teams,” he said. “If we can’t win 11 of our last 16, then we haven’t earned our way there.”