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Pinch-hit homer vaults Greyhounds to softball sweep

 

February 20, 2018

Kevin Wilson

Eastern New Mexico junior Courtney Vigil screams in celebration at her teammates waiting for her at home plate following her pinch-hit two-run homer in the sixth inning of the Greyhounds' 7-5 Sunday win over Western New Mexico.

PORTALES — Home runs can turn a team's luck around in a hurry, and Eastern New Mexico's 13th of the year has so far brought the most fortunes of all.

Pinch hitter Courtney Vigil drove a 2-2 pitch just past the fence in left for a two-run sixth-inning blast to propel the Greyhounds to a 7-5 victory Sunday over Western New Mexico and a sweep in their first Lone Star Conference series.

The one-out blast for Vigil swung momentum back to Eastern (8-5, 3-0), not too long after Western's Alicia Habitzreuther's solo homer sparked a four-run fifth to knot things up.

"Home runs turn games," third-year ENMU coach Katie Welborn said. "We're lucky ours came last. Courtney Vigil just stepped up from the dugout, jacked it."

Vigil, a juco transfer who slugged nine homers as a sophomore last year at Trinidad State, said she was mainly trying to get a hit and move pinch runner Kayla Marshall from first — where Marshall had initially been caught in a rundown, but got second life when the umpire ruled runner obstruction on the Mustangs (1-12, 0-3).

"I was just looking for my pitch," Vigil said. "I had two strikes, and I was looking for something in the zone. Honestly, I thought it was still in the field of play, but that's how the wind sometimes is out here."

Hanna Gary, the third Greyhound pitcher of the day, picked up the win in two innings of relief by pitching herself out of a pair of self-inflicted jams.

Gary (3-1) allowed back-to-back singles to open the sixth, but got the next three hitters in order to keep things knotted at 5 and set the stage for Vigil's heroics. Gary needed just three pitches to record the first two outs of the seventh, and then got ahead of Mariangela Garcia 0-2 — only to plunk Garcia and the next two Mustangs on three pitches to load the bases. But she got Carolyn Castillo on a weak comeback and tossed the ball to first to end the threat.

"She's got so much focus," Welborn said of Gary. "All of my pitchers have focus, but she's got such clear focus. When she said, 'I got it,' I knew she did."

The Mustangs left 16 runners on base, compared to six for the Greyhounds, and left the bases loaded four times. First-year Mustang coach Elsa Blocker was probably frustrated on the bus ride back to Silver City with the missed opportunities, but it was a far better finish than scoring just two runs in Saturday's doubleheader loss.

"Right now, it's just about building up our confidence defensively," said Blocker, a former Angelo State third baseman who served as a Western assistant last season before she was elevated to the top spot. "A lot of our girls are young, so we're working on that. Offensively, we stepped up better than yesterday."

Habitzreuther went 3-for-4 on the day, and drove in runs on her solo blast and an RBI double in the first.

Kevin Wilson

Eastern New Mexico's Hanna Gary winds up for a sixth-inning pitch in Sunday's Lone Star Conference game at Greyhound Softball Field. Gary improved to 3-1 on the season with the win in two innings of relief as the Greyhounds topped Western New Mexico 7-5.

The Greyhounds answered in each of their first four innings to build the early 5-1 advantage, with Samantha Brockman, Samantha Glover and Karina Moreno all notching run-scoring sacrifice flies. Kamalani Peneku and Precious Aguirre each picked up RBI singles, with Aguirre's coming on a bunt to score Elena Garcia.

The Greyhounds posted 11 hits, with Aguirre, Garcia and Erikka Burke each going 2-for-3.

This is Eastern's second consecutive year starting LSC play 3-0, with the same two teams opening LSC play last year in Silver City. Before that, the Greyhounds hadn't even started an LSC season 2-0 since the 2001 season.

"It's always important to start strong," Welborn said. "Even if it's a win you're supposed to get (a home series against a 1-9 opponent), Western is a scrappy team."

The Greyhounds will host New Mexico Highlands in a 3 p.m. Tuesday doubleheader, then head to Tarleton State for a three-game series Friday and Saturday where they hope to replicate some of Sunday's success.

"Momentum was a big thing in this game," Vigil said. "I think this game is going to set a tone for us this season."

 
 

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