Zias salvage split against Texas Woman’s

By Dave Wagner: PNT sports writer

Texas Woman’s pitching held the potent Eastern New Mexico University offense well in check on Friday. Despite that, the Zias found a way to get a key Lone Star Conference South Division split.

Senior Rosemary Moreno allowed only two first-inning singles and retired the final 17 Pioneers in order as second-place ENMU salvaged a 1-0 win in the second game. Junior Lindsy Russ-Keller held the Zias in check in the opener, pitching Texas Woman’s to a 4-1 victory at Zia Softball Field.

With the wind whipping in at gale force from left-center most of the day, small ball was in order. But the Pioneers (18-29-1, 6-5-1 South), with only 10 homers all season coming in, got a two-run homer from Oklahoma State transfer Rachel Johnson to take a 2-1 lead in the fourth.

Russ-Keller (9-11) did the rest, working out of several jams as the Zias stranded 11 runners. Texas Woman’s, third in the South, added insurance runs in the fifth and seventh off Natasha Lindsey (8-7).

“The girls hit the ball well and ran the bases well,” Pioneers coach Marty Blowers said of the opener. “In the second game, we just didn’t get the hitting.”

Moreno (16-5) gave up both hits with one out in the first. But after Amanda Emory singled and stole second, she hesitated on Amanda Arnold’s bloop hit over short and center fielder Kristina Goodman threw her out at third.

In the second, Rhonda Sherman reached on shortstop Jessica Nocas’ throwing error leading off and took second on a groundout before catcher Tina Whitt gunned her down trying to steal third, with Nocas racing over to cover and making a sprawling tag.

ENMU loaded the bases with no outs in the third on Brianna Darnell’s single, Goodman’s bunt single and an error on Tracy Jordan’s sacrifice bunt. Freshman Ashley Martin (7-13) got two outs, but walked Kelsey Kubik on a 3-2 pitch after a long at-bat to force in the only run.

Moreno, who retired four hitters on just five pitches in one stretch, said the strong wind was beneficial to her off-speed pitches.

“The wind was behind me,” she said. “Usually I throw my screwball when it’s windy, and my off-speed curve. The wind was helping me.

“The girls did really well (in the field). Our middle infield (of Nocas and Jordan) is so strong right now. When (the opponents) get a hit, I know my defense will pick me up.”

The Zias, with an LSC-leading 50 homers and .364 team average coming in, were glad to get one win.

“We were fortunate,” ENMU coach Armando Quiroz said. “Rose was outstanding as usual, and Tasha (Lindsey) threw great as well.”

Neither Zias pitcher issued a walk against a team which likes to play small-ball and use its speed.

“She kept their speed people off base,” Quiroz said of Moreno. “If they can put the ball on the ground, they’re tough.

“The wind was horrible for both sides, but credit to the pitchers.”

The teams finish off the series with another twin bill today, scheduled for a noon start.