Streaking Zias face crucial LSC contest

Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s softball team has won seven in a row and 15 of its last 17. That hot streak is about to be put to the test.

The Lone Star Conference’s top hitting teams collide when the Zias (26-12, 6-2 South) visit first-place Abilene Christian (27-8, 9-1) for four games, beginning with a 4 p.m. (MST) doubleheader today. The teams meet again in a noon (MST) twin bill on Saturday.

ENMU is hitting .372 with 46 home runs, but the Wildcats are second in the conference in both categories with a .352 average and 40 round-trippers.

It’s the first time since 2002 the Zias have been in the hunt for an LSC postseason tournament berth.

“We’re very optimistic,” ENMU coach Armando Quiroz said Thursday before the team left for Abilene. “We’re going down there with our eyes wide open.

“We know we have a task ahead of us. Abilene is a perennial contender year-in and year-out.”

The Wildcats are coming off a four-game sweep at Tarleton State, a team which split with the Zias in their South-opening series. ENMU swept West Texas A&M last weekend.

Abilene Christian currently has the No. 4 pitching staff in the LSC, led by reigning South pitcher of the week Jennifer Leal (15-1, 1.76 ERA). Leal won three games at Tarleton.

Quiroz said senior Amanda Nightingale (5-3, 4.43) will start today’s first game for the Zias, with senior Rosemary Moreno (13-5, 3.40) going in the nightcap. Another senior, Natasha Lindsey (8-4, 5.06), is available in relief.

“On Saturday, we’ll just play it by ear,” Quiroz said. “We’ll see who’s hot.”

ENMU’s bats have certainly been hot. Junior outfielder Kelsey Kubik (.461) leads four Zias hitting over .400, while two others are above the .375 mark.