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ENMU sweeps series with Falcons

Mar. 23—After a rough stretch against some of the Lone Star Conference's best squads, Eastern New Mexico University's softball team picked up a much-needed series sweep against last-place Texas-Permian Basin, capped by 8-5 and 6-2 wins in Wednesday's doubleheader at Greyhound Softball Field.

ENMU (18-14, 11-13 LSC) entered the week having lost 10 of its previous 11, but the Greyhounds took care of business against a team which came into the series averaging less than two runs a game for the season.

Junior right-hander Marissa Rodriguez had a profitable series in the circle, picking up two wins — one in relief — and her first save of the campaign.

Rodriguez (7-6) relieved starter Jordan Rivera in the fourth inning of Game 2, with the bases loaded and two out for the Falcons. Freshman catcher Nia Brown singled up the middle to pull UTPB (4-26, 1-20) to 5-1 before Rodriguez got the final out of the frame on a fielder's choice grounder.

In the fifth, right fielder Cheyenne Marquez — 0-for-18 for the season coming into the twin bill — hit a first-pitch leadoff home run to make it 5-2. Rodriguez walked two batters, but got the final out on a fielder's choice and finished by retiring the last seven Falcons hitters.

Senior designated player Taighen Whitzel belted a two-run homer, her ninth of the year, and senior left fielder Aylene Lucero scored on an infield out for a 5-0 lead in the fourth. Senior right fielder Mikenzey Patterson's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth restored a four-run advantage.

ENMU outhit the Falcons 9-4, with Whitzel and Lucero each finishing 2-for-4.

In the opener, Vasquez and Gutierrez each homered twice and knocked in three runs and the Hounds got out to a 6-0 lead after two innings.

Junior right-hander Emma Southerland (7-6) carried a five-hitter and an 8-2 lead into the seventh, but the Falcons loaded the bases with two out on a walk, an error and a hit batsman. Senior Keri Sanford then cleared them with a double to left, but Rodriguez took over and struck out center fielder Kaylee Moses swinging on a 3-2 pitch for the save.

Vasquez hit a one-out solo homer and Gutierrez followed with a two-out, two-run homer before junior first baseman Grace Rofii's RBI single made it 4-0 after the first.

Vasquez hit a two-run homer, her 10th, in the bottom of the second. UTPB pulled to 6-2 in the third on Moses' two-run triple, but senior second baseman Chanler Groves hit an RBI single in the bottom half and Gutierrez blasted a solo shot, her eighth, in the sixth inning.

Senior left fielder Aylene Lucero also had two of ENMU's 10 hits.

"Emma and Jordan did a great job today," ENMU coach Amanda Fefel said. "I was proud of how Marissa came in in relief in both games to help shut down (UTPB's) momentum."

The Hounds were back in the frying pan this weekend with a three-game set at fifth-ranked Texas-Tyler (27-5, 17-4), which came in 10-1 at home had a 17-game winning snapped in its last outing.

"These were three big wins for us as we move into another tough series."

ENMU 8, UTPB 0 (Tuesday) — The Hounds jumped on UTPB starter Destini Trahan (0-10) for six runs in the bottom of the first, knocking her out after the first six batters reached base.

Gutierrez got the scoring started with a bases-loaded triple to right before coming home on a double to center field by junior right fielder Grace Rofii. Senior shortstop Valeria Contraras then drove in Rodriguez with a fielder's choice grounder.

ENMU added a pair of runs in the third as Vasquez hit a run-scoring fielder's choice and Whitzel added an RBI single.

"It was a good day for the team all around," Fefel said. "We were disciplined early in the game on the offensive side and gave our defense and Marissa some comfort room."

Rodriguez needed just 73 pitches to breeze to her first shutout of the campaign, allowing just three singles in five innings with one walk and three strikeouts as the Falcons were blanked for the 14th time in their last 17 outings. Patterson and Lucero each had two of the Hounds' seven hits.