Zias’ first baseman steady influence

ENMU senior first baseman Anna Hershkowitz gets congratulations from coach Amber Daniel after a home run earlier this season.

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — After two seasons in junior college in her home town of Scottsdale, Ariz., Anna Hershkowitz didn’t know where she would go to continue playing softball.

She just knew she wanted to play somewhere else.

In the fall of 2006, Hershkowitz came sight-unseen to Eastern New Mexico University. After a slow start last spring, the first baseman has developed into a steady force for the Zias.

“She’s been our most consistent player,” ENMU softball coach Amber Daniel said. “She’s played in every game after I showed up.”

The Zias were scheduled to open a three-game Lone Star Conference South Division series against West Texas A&M today at Zia Softball Field, but the start of the series has been pushed back. The teams will play a noon doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday.

Hershkowitz, one of three seniors on the roster, saw limited playing time during the first half of last season. But when coach Armando Quiroz left for personal reasons in March and Daniel, a one-time ENMU grad assistant, was hired to replace him, Hershkowitz stepped into regular duty.

“Mostly, it’s an attitude thing,” Daniel said. “She was struggling offensively (early last season), and I think that may have been why she wasn’t playing.”

The transition was tough early on, Hershkowitz acknowledged.

“Coach Q hadn’t seen me play (in junior college),” she said. “He just went off what my coach in junior college said.

“It was hard making the adjustment; I wasn’t as ‘into’ the game as I had been. I think it was a lack of concentration.”

The more she played, the better she did, and the more confidence Daniel had in her.

This season, Hershkowitz leads the team in home runs (four) and runs (22), and ranks in the top three in batting average (.355), hits (44) and runs batted in (24). She also has a .991 fielding percentage, with just three errors for the season.

Unfortunately for the Zias, it hasn’t translated into team success. After an early 10-game winning streak, ENMU has fallen to 20-25 overall and 0-9 in the division.

“We can’t figure out why,” Hershkowitz said. “We worked hard in the fall and started out strong in the spring, but nothing has gone in our favor, it seems like.

“You have to just play through it.”

A health & physical education major, Hershkowitz will graduate in December and said she wants to go into nursing. While she’s looking forward to returning to the Phoenix area, she said she’s enjoying her time in Portales.

“I’ve loved living in a small town,” she said. “I’ve really liked it here, and I’ve met some good friends.”