Zias seek quick turnaround
CMI sports writer
New Eastern New Mexico University softball coach Kristen Soukup, whose husband Oliver is ENMU’s defensive coordinator in football, is hoping the Zias can borrow a bit from the school’s football makeup.
link Tony Bullocks: Clovis Media Inc.
ENMU freshman infielder Audrey Velasquez makes a throw to first base during Friday afternoon’s practice at Zia Softball Field. The Zias, under first-year coach Kristen Soukup, open the 2014 campaign next weekend with two games each against Oklahoma Christian and Lubbock Christian in Lubbock.
The Greyhounds run a triple-offense attack not often seen in the Lone Star Conference, and that can be hard to adjust to for opponents. Kristen Soukup is hoping the Zias, who plan to play a lot of “small ball” in a power-hitting league, can give opponents something they don’t see a lot of as well.
“I think you’ll see a different team than what you see across the LSC,” said Soukup, who spent five years as an assistant coach at Division II Concordia (Minn.) before coming to ENMU to work in compliance during the past school year. “If the ball’s getting put in play (by opponents), I really feel comfortable with our defense.”
She replaces Lauren Sigwing, whose team went 14-42 (6-21 LSC) last season.
ENMU was picked seventh in the eight-team LSC in the preseason poll.
“The top four teams are going to be pretty strong,” Soukup said, referring to Texas Woman’s, West Texas A&M, Midwestern State and Angelo State, all of whom received first-place votes in the poll. “(But) it’s going to be hard for anybody to go through the conference undefeated.”
The Zias have a mix of returning veterans (10) and newcomers (nine).
“I feel like this team is stronger physically and mentally (than in the past),” said junior Jackie Candelaria, who is scheduled to move from the outfield to second base this season. “I feel like this year’s team has put in the work. We’ve come a long way.”
Junior Aurelia Sandoval and sophomore Kyra Sirag will again share catching duties and Sirag (.364, three homers, 30 RBIs last season) figures to be in the lineup somewhere else if not catching.
Senior Erica Armendarez (.290, five HRs, 40 RBIs) will be at first base with Candelaria at second.
“I’ve played there (in high school), so it’s not too much of a change for me,” said Candelaria, a Los Lunas High grad who batted .236 with two homers in 51 games last spring. “Being at second base is where the team needs me, and I feel very comfortable and confident there.
“I’m so excited for the season to start. I feel like the whole team is ready to play at this point.”
Junior Lizzy Velasquez (.364, two HRs, 27 RBIs) returns at third base while her younger sister, freshman Audrey Velasquez, is competing at shortstop with another freshman, Cailin Garmon.
link Tony Bullocks: Clovis Media Inc.
ENMU sophomore Kyra Sirag goes down to block a low pitch during a drill at Friday afternoon’s practice at Zia Softball Field. The Zias, under first-year coach Kristen Soukup, open the 2014 campaign next weekend with two games each against Oklahoma Christian and Lubbock Christian in Lubbock.
Junior Amanda Martinez, a junior college transfer who Soukup says “may be the fastest player in the LSC,” is ticketed for center field while the corner outfield spots are up for grabs between sophomores Marly Pinon and Ty Romero, senior Betty Caporal, freshman Katie Ripple and juniors Savannah Chavez, Mallory Mitchner and Becca Long. Chavez played center field most of last season, while Pinon and Caporal also have significant playing time under their belts
In the circle, right-handers Albie Medina (3-8, 6.43 ERA and Mary Jo Granger (6-10 (9.19) have the most experience while Gannon and junior lefty Vanessa Ramirez should also get some time.
“I think for us it’s going to be a matter of manufacturing runs,” Soukup said. “The girls want to make the conference tournament (top six of eight).
“We kind of want to change the culture around here.”
7 — vs. Oklahoma Christian, noon, and at Lubbock Christian, 2 p.m.; 8 — vs. Oklahoma Christian, noon, and vs. Lubbock Christian, 2 p.m.; 10 — at University of the Southwest (2), noon; 14-16 — at West Texas A&M tournament (14 vs. Fort Lewis, noon and vs. Colorado State-Pueblo, 2 p.m.; 15 vs. Colorado Mesa, noon, and vs. Metro State, 2 p.m.; 16 vs. Adams State, noon); 21-23 — at St. Mary’s tournament (21 vs. Rogers State, 9 a.m., and vs. Oklahoma Christian, 11 a.m.; 22 vs. Oklahoma Christian, 9 a.m., and at St. Mary’s, 3 p.m.; 23 vs. Central Oklahoma, 9 a.m.); 28 — at Cameron (2), noon-x.
1 — at Cameron, 11 a.m.-x; 5 — at Oklahoma Panhandle State (2), noon; 7 — Midwestern State (2), noon--x; 8 — Midwestern State, noon-x; 13-16 — Lone Star Conference Showcase at Wichita Falls, Texas (13 vs. Angelo State, 4 p.m.-x; 14 — at Midwestern State, 9 a.m.-x, and vs. Cameron, 3 p.m.-x; 15 — vs. Tarleton State, 12:30 p.m.-x, and vs. Texas Woman’s, 4:30 p.m.-x; 16 — vs. Texas A&M-Kingsville, 9 a.m.-x); 21 — at Tarleton State (2), 4 p.m.-x; 22 — at Tarleton State, noon-x; 24 — Colo.-Colorado Springs (2), 11 a.m.; 28 — Texas Woman’s, 3 p.m.-x; 29 — Texas Woman’s (2), noon-x.
2 — New Mexico Highlands (2), 1 p.m.; 4 — at Angelo State, 6 p.m.-x; 5 — at Angelo State (2), noon-x; 8 — Oklahoma Panhandle State (2), 1 p.m.; 12 — West Texas A&M (2), 1 p.m.-x; 15 — Lubbock Christian (2), 2 p.m.; 16 — University of the Southwest (2), 2 p.m.; 18 — at West Texas A&M (2), 4 p.m.-x; 25 — Texas A&M-Kingsville (2), 2 p.m.-x; 26 — Texas A&M-Kingsville, 1 p.m.-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference games.