By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico University pitcher Kristen Cruickshank was a little shaky in the first inning, but survived.
After that, the sophomore was pretty much lights out. Cruickshank pitched a five-hitter and collected three hits at the plate Friday as the Zias bounced Texas Woman’s 9-1 in the opener of a three-game Lone Star Conference South Division series at Zia Softball Field.
The teams will wrap up their seasons with a noon doubleheader today.
Senior first baseman Anna Hershkowitz went 4-for-4 as the Zias (26-28, 4-12 South) collected 14 hits, including 12 in the final three innings of a game called on the eight-run rule in the bottom of the sixth.
“That was about as well as it could go,” ENMU assistant coach Sarah Hausner said. “Kristen pitched well, we hit well and we had some good defensive plays.”
Cruickshank (13-10) issued a single and a walk and hit a batter in a 23-pitch first inning. She was helped when catcher Michelle Anderson threw out Texas Woman’s Tiffanie Boone trying to steal.
Cruickshank said she often struggles at the start.
“I can usually get my rhythm once I get past the first inning,” she said. “Usually, when we get runners on, we’ve played good defense this year.”
She allowed only one baserunner over the next three innings, and the Zias finally broke through for two runs on four hits in the fourth against Carly Case.
The Zias added three in the fifth and four in the sixth. Case (11-17) and reliever Allie Packer weren’t helped by their defense, which committed five errors.
Cruickshank lost a chance at a sixth shutout this season when Texas Woman’s (16-40, 2-14) opened the sixth with Billie Calahan’s third single of the game and Rachel Johnson’s RBI double.
It was nice to have a cushion, Cruickshank said.
“Our team is really good at bouncing back from stuff like that,” she said. “With a 5-0 lead, I knew it wasn’t that big a deal.”
ENMU wasted leadoff doubles by Hershkowitz in the second and Cruickshank in the third.
“That’s been something we’ve struggled with,” Hausner said. “But we did a good job of pushing on, and we finally got the hits we needed.”
Rebecca Quinones and Hershkowitz started the fourth with singles, moved up on Casandra McCommons’ sacrifice bunt and scored when catcher Kaley Frye’s throw went down the right field line. Cruickshank then plated Hershkowitz with a two-out single.
Hershkowitz hit an RBI double, McCommons added a run-scoring triple and Michelle Anderson chipped in an RBI single in the fifth. Two runs scored on errors in the sixth, and the others came home on singles by Quinones and Hershkowitz.