LAS CRUCES — The University of New Mexico softball team was efficient on Saturday morning at the NM State Softball Complex, using two innings of offense and a resilient defense to run-rule Creighton by a score of 8-0 in five innings at the NM State Invitational.
UNM fell 9-8 to New Mexico State later in the day to wrap up its participation in the tournament. The Aggies then run-ruled UTEP 12-3 in five innings. NMSU hosts Creighton Sunday to end the tournament.
UNM outhit Creighton, the preseason favorite in the Big East 9-3 in the game and drew four walks in the contest.
Offensively, UNM was led by clutch hitting at the top of the lineup in junior shortstop Cameryn O’Grady and senior outfielder D’Andra DeFlora.
O’Grady was a perfect 3-of-3 from the plate, scoring four RBI on a single in the first, a two-run home run in the second and a triple in the fourth, finishing a double shy of a cycle. DeFlora doubled in the second prior to the O’Grady home run to clear the bases for the first three runs of the game. Lauren Wilmert produced the final run of the game in the fourth on a single.
Although the Bluejays got to starting pitcher Kiana Spencer early, the junior left-handed pitcher threw the full five innings, giving up only three hits in her first appearance in the circle for the Lobos. The Gallup, N.M., native struck out two while walking five, throwing a total of 91 pitches, 42 of them going for strikes and facing 24 batters to earn the win.
Creighton (0-3) left nine runners on base, compared to just four for UNM.
Spencer went deep into the counts the first inning in the circle, but the defense was there to back her up as the Lobos escaped the inning leaving Bluejay runners on first and second and only giving up one hit.
In the bottom half, O’Grady singled for the first hit of the day for UNM, and a two-out Wilmert walk put runners on first and second, but the Lobos couldn’t get anything more.
Creighton loaded the bases in the second with a walk, a single and a hit-by-pitch with only one out, but two pop ups to Wilmert at first and Taylor Jones at second ended the inning for the Lobos without any damage done.
For the second game in-a-row, the Lobo offense got rolling in the second inning, putting up another five runs in the inning.
Monica Salas singled down the left-field line on a 2-1 pitch to start the inning and Bailey Klitzke followed that up by drawing a four-pitch walk. The runners moved in to scoring position on a passed ball, and Howard was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs in the inning. On a 2-2 count, after at one point being behind 0-2, DeFlora doubled down the left-field line to empty the bases, giving UNM a 3-0 lead. O’Grady took a 3-2 pitch on the next at-bat yard, clearing the right field wall for a two-run home run that extended the Lobo lead to 5-0. The Lobos scored five runs on three hits in the inning.
UNM produced a clean sheet in the top of the third as the Bluejays went down in order with Spencer tallying another strike out.
The Lobos threatened again in the bottom of the third with back-to-back singles by Salas and Klitzke, with Salas advancing to third and Klitzke to second on a fielding error by Creighton. However, the Lobos couldn’t put any runs on the board. Salas finished the day going 2-for-3 at the plate with two singles, while Klitzke went 1-for-1 with a single and a walk.
The fourth inning mirrored the second in that while Creighton got on base, the defense turned them away behind a flyout and a pop up. The Bluejays had runners on the corners in the top of the fourth after a walk and a single through the right side, but a flyout to center and a pop up to O’Grady allowed the Lobos to again go unscathed.
In similar fashion, the Lobos responded in the bottom half of the inning by putting runs on the board, with the top of the order coming through once more.
Andrea Howard led off with a bunt and a walk by DeFlora put the Lobos in position to add to their lead. O’Grady drove a 3-1 pitch to right field for a triple, bringing in Howard and DeFlora for the 7-0 advantage. Wilmert produced the final run of the game on a single to left field to score O’Grady, and chased the Creighton pitcher.
Creighton starting pitcher Kiele Miller lasted 3.0 innings, allowing nine hits and eight earned runs, while recording four walks and seven strikeouts in just 22 batters faced. Miller threw a total of 105 pitches, 55 of them going for strikes, in the loss.
Laura Roecker entered the game in relief with a runner on first and no one out, but shut down the Lobos with a strikeout and a double play.
However, the damage was already done as the Lobos just needed three more outs to secure the win. While the Bluejays put two on base through walks, and advanced runners to third and second, a final pop up to Salas at third provided the final out and the second victory of the weekend for the Lobos.
GAME 2: Lobos Lose Late Lead in 9-8 Loss to NMSU
LAS CRUCES, N.M.— Andrea Howard’s three-run home run in the top of the sixth gave New Mexico a 7-6 lead that the Lobos couldn’t hold in a 9-9 defeat.
The Lobos seemed to have picked up from where they left off earlier in the day after an 8-0, five-inning victory over Creighton with two early runs against NMSU, but it was the home team who managed to put together runs in the later innings of the game to come away with the win.
UNM ultimately outhit NMSU 10-7 in the game, with both teams leaving five runners on base. Both teams combined to hit six home runs, all occurring in innings five through seven, with NMSU holding a 4-2 advantage.
The top of the order for the Lobos went 8-for-12 at the plate with Howard going 2-for-4 in the leadoff spot with a double and the aforementioned home run for a team-high 3 runs-batted-in, followed by D’Andra DeFlora and Cameryn O’Grady both hitting .750 (3-for-4). Both DeFlora and O’Grady notched a double in the game and O’Grady hit her second home run of the day in the top of the seventh.
Freshman Kennedy Ferguson got the start for the Lobos (2-1) in the circle and pitched four innings, giving up four runs, three hits, and registering three strike outs on 80 pitches, 49 of them strikes.
Howard led off the game with a double on the third pitch of the at-bat and DeFlora doubled to left field on a 3-2 pitch in the next at-bat to drive in Howard for the first run of the game. O’Grady kept it going with a single through the right side that moved DeFlora to third.
The Aggies pulled their starting pitcher, Analise De La Rosa, just four batters in with the Lobos on the corners and no one out. A groundout by Lauren Wilmert advanced O’Grady to second and a Bailey Klitzke sacrifice fly brought in DeFlora from third for an early 2-0 UNM lead.
NMSU got a run back in the bottom half on a sacrifice flyout to Leslie Romero in left before Ferguson closed the inning with a strike out.
After a scoreless frame from both teams in the second, the Lobos got the run back in the top of the third with the help of DeFlora, O’Grady and Wilmert.
DeFlora started the inning with a single to right field and moved to third on a double by O’Grady. Wilmert flied out to center on the next at bat, in which DeFlora tagged and scored for the 3-1 Lobo advantage.
Ferguson pitched two more scoreless innings in the bottom of the third and fourth, but it was the fifth inning that proved to be troublesome for the right-handed pitcher.
After Ferguson walked an Aggie on a 3-2 count to lead off the inning, Kelsey Horton homered to left field to tie the game at three and NMSU hit a solo shot on the next at-bat to take a 4-3 lead. It was the first time this season that UNM had trailed in a game.
Klitzke, who started the game as the designated player, entered the game in relief and gave up four runs, two of them earned, and three hits in one inning in the circle.
The Aggies would tack on a total of five runs in the bottom of the fifth on four hits to take a 6-3 lead.
However, the Lobos were quick to answer in the top of the sixth. Monica Salas singled to center and Maggie Buckholz drew a four-pitch walk after entering the game as a pinch hitter for Daryn Haslam. With runners on first and second and two outs in the inning, Aleyah Wilbon loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk of her own after entering the game in left field in the bottom of the fifth. A throwing error by the Aggie catcher allowed Salas to score from third and the other baserunners to move up one base.
With a 1-2 count and two outs in the inning, Howard delivered with a three-run home run that put UNM back in front 7-6. The Lobos ultimately tallied four runs on two hits in the inning.
The narrow lead didn’t last long as a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth followed by another home tun by Horton allowed the Aggies to regain the advantage at 8-7, which also ended the day for Klitzke in the circle. Klitzke was charged with the loss to move to 1-1 on the year.
Kiana Spencer entered the game and although she recorded the first out of the inning via a groundout to Salas at third, Nikki Butler homered to left center on the next at-bat to extend the deficit to two at 9-7. Spencer struck out the next two batters looking to end the inning.
O’Grady led off the top of the seventh with a solo shot to center that made it 9-8 Aggies, and two batter later, a Klitzke walk gave the Lobos the tying run on base. Klitzke advanced to second on a wild pitch, but the Lobos were unable to string together another hit to plate the tying run.
Up next: UNM travels to Tucson, Ariz., for the Hillenbrand Invitational with a single game against Arizona scheduled prior to the start of the five-game tournament on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. MT.