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Howard's Big Day Not Enough in Twinbill Loss

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Andrea Howard blasted two more home runs to give her nine on the season, but New Mexico’s usually stellar defense took the day off as UNM committed 10 uncharacteristic errors over the two games as New Mexico State was able to squeak out two wins, taking the opener 12-8 in a big comeback, and then winning 8-5 in the nightcap.  The Lobos, who entered the game with just 15 errors in 18 games, committed 10 on the day, and had another ball misplayed into a hit as well.

It had nothing to do with Howard, who went 1-for-5 in the opening game with a three-run homer, and then going 1-for-3 in game two with a solo homer.  The home runs were her eighth and ninth of the season, easily leading the team and moving her within one of San Diego State’s Mac Barbara for the Mountain West lead.  But, Howard’s bat couldn’t overcome UNM’s defense, which struggled without Emma Bramson in the lineup.  Bramson was shaken up earlier in the day in a fender bender, and although she is OK, she did not play in either game.

In game one, UNM moved regular shortstop Brianna Martinez to third, second second baseman Victoria Archuleta to short and inserted Alexis Vigil at second, and that shifting around cost UNM.  Early on it looked like none of that would matter in game one as UNM exploded for five runs in the third inning to take a 5-0 lead.  Howard gave UNM a 3-0 lead as she followed a Peyton Robinson single and an Archuleta walk with a line drive homerun that went over the right field scoreboard.  Leslie Romero doubled, and after a pitching change an error allowed her to score.   UNM eventually loaded the bases and Robinson walked to make it 5-0.  Jordan King then went 3-1 on Brianna Martinez and she was moved to first base, and first baseman Kayla Bowen came in to pitch.  She got NMSU out of the inning when Martinez grounded out as UNM left three.

That would prove costly, not as much as the errors that were to come.  Three errors in the top of the fourth, two by Vigil and one by Archuleta let three unearned runs come in.  Vigil made up for her miscues in the fifth inning with heady baserunning.  She advanced from first to second on a routine fly ball to center with two outs, and she came around to score on a Robinson single with a terrific slide around NMSU’s catcher.  Archuleta then doubled to move Robinson to third, and she scored when Yazzie Avila’s throw home went right through catcher Lindsay Hannah’s legs to make it 7-3.

But it all went wrong in the sixth and seventh.  NMSU opened the inning with back-to-back singles that netted a run, but disaster struck when Paige Knight popped a ball up to Archuleta at short, but she inexplicably dropped it, and the ball rolled far enough away that UNM couldn’t record an out anywhere.  UNM had another error on a throw on a back pick and that led to another pair of unearned runs after back-to-back doubles.  That ended Emma Guindon’s time in the circle, and Brianna Sanchez came in and got UNM out of the inning with the score tied at 7-7.

In the seventh, NMSU took the lead for good when Sanchez walked Lopez to open the inning, and Ashley Roberts came in to relieve.  She got an out before hitting Maya Martinez with a 3-2 pitch.  Bowen then gave NMSU the lead with a 3-run homer to center.  Another hit by pitch brought Guindon back into the game, and two more infield errors led to two more runs and a 12-7 lead.  UNM got one back when Archuleta tripled in a run, but she was stranded to end game one, a game that saw UNM commit seven errors.

In the second game, Howard again got UNM on the board first with a monster home run to right center in the first, but NMSU would score the next eight runs. Amber Linton got the first two outs of the fourth inning and she looked to be cruising, to that point having allowed just two hits, although they came in a third inning that saw NMSU squander a bases loaded, one-out situation.  After striking out the first two batters, four straight hits, the last a two-run single by Lopez, gave NMSU a 3-1 lead.

The pushed the door wide open with five in the fifth, with another Lobo error leading to three more unearned runs.  With one out and the bases loaded, Jillian Taylor grounded to Martinez near the bag.  Brianna was thinking double play, but she misplayed the ball for a critical error that allowed two runs to come in.  Later with the bases loaded and one out, Savannah Bejarno lined a ball to Taryn Young in right, but Young broke in, and couldn’t quite recover with the ball ticking off the top of her glove and she went back and leaped.  Young did recover in time to throw Bejarno out at third, but three runs came in to make it 8-1.

McKenna Kostyszyn came in for the last two innings and pitched well, allowing just a single in two innings.  Down 8-1, UNM got back in it with four in the fifth, three coming an a Young home run to left.  Down 8-5 entering the seventh, UNM made a run at it.  Archuleta led off with a single, forcing a pitching change from Felicia De La Torre to Laurali Patane.  Patane faced Howard and fell behind 3-0.  Howard swung at the next pitch and fouled out down the line in left with Archuleta moving up.  Romero then hit a weird soft spinner off the end of her bat and both middle infielders ran into each other for a single, bringing the tying run to the plate in Young.  Young ran the count full and fouled off four pitches, including a 3-1 pitch that was pulled foul by with home run distance.  Patane than got Young swinging on a change up for the second out, and Olivia Birkinshaw grounded out to end the game.

The Lobos, who head to Utah for the DIxie State Tournament this weekend, dropped to 15-5 on the year, while NMSU moved to 4-11.  Archuleta led the way for UNM at the plate with four hits, and Howard had four runs batted in.