Hounds begin division play against Angelo

By Dave Wagner: PNT Sports Writer

Phil Clabaugh has never seen anything like it.

Clabaugh’s Eastern New Mexico University baseball team started the season on fire. After winning three of four from Southeastern Oklahoma in early March, the Greyhounds were sitting at 16-4.

That was followed by a 10-game losing streak, including four-game sweeps by Southwestern Oklahoma and Cameron.

“We haven’t really played worth a darn since Southeastern,” Clabaugh said as the Hounds (18-16) prepare to begin Lone Star Conference South Division play against Angelo State (21-10) with 4 p.m. doubleheaders today and Saturday at Greyhound Field.

“I’m not taking anything away from those other teams, but I don’t think Southwestern and Cameron are any different than Southeastern.”

Clabaugh said the losing streak, which ended with an 18-10 win on Sunday at Central Oklahoma, was the longest for one of his teams since his first squad at Western New Mexico in 1988 lost 19 in a row.

Still, Clabaugh knows things can turn around again.

“Reality is generally someplace in the middle (between the hot start and the losing streak),” he said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with how hard we’re playing — we’re just playing bad.

“I just don’t know what to think; it’s been a crazy year. Baseball’s about consistency, and we’re certainly not that.”

Angelo State, in just its second year of baseball, figures to be a formidable challenge. The Rams come in fourth in the LSC in hitting (.324), and rank second in both pitching (3.46 earned run average) and defense (.959 fielding percentage).

Senior catcher Brian Green said Wednesday’s 21-14 win at Colorado Christian provided a much-needed lift for the Hounds.

“It gives us some confidence,” said Green, whose .365 average ranks him third on the team. “But we know we’ve got our hands full with Angelo State.

“They’re a good team, but we’re a good team as well. We’re going to have to play good to beat them.”

With Abilene Christian and Texas A&M-Kingsville both nationally ranked, Clabaugh believes the Hounds, who begin a 10-game homestand this weekend, need to win this series to put themselves in position to make the conference tournament.

“I just know this — in baseball, anybody can beat anybody,” he said. “I’m sure we’re the underdogs against Angelo. A lot of guys in the North (Division) think Angelo has the best team in the South. I know they’ve got a boatload of talent.”

Green, who won a game at Angelo last year with a ninth-inning homer, said the team is ready to turn it around again.

“At the beginning of the season we had a lot of things go right for us,” he said. “Then we hit a wall; we weren’t necessarily playing that bad, but things weren’t going our way.

“Getting the win (Wednesday) was good for us. We’re starting a tough part of the season. I’m excited for it, and I know the other guys are too.”