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Monday, December 22, 2014

Lobos must score early to vie with MWC leader

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Infielder Jordyn Bledsoe watches the ball leave her bat against Boise State on April 7. UNM hosts Nevada for a three-game series at Lobo Field this weekend.

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Of New Mexico’s 45 softball games to date this season, 13 have had lopsided outcomes. 

The Lobos have four wins and nine losses in which the victor scored at least six more runs than the loser. That trend was particularly evident in last weekend’s series, which saw UNM lose to UNLV 8-0 then defeat the Rebels 10-0 the following day.

Junior infielder Jordan Sjostrand said roller coaster-like rides can be tough for an athlete.

“Everyone’s going to have slumps,” she said. “We’ve all struggled at some point in the year, including myself. That’s the great thing about a team: to have each other there to get back to that high point.”

UNM (19-26, 3-6 MWC) could have a tough time breaking that trend this weekend when it hosts MWC newcomer Nevada for a three-game series. The first game is tonight at 6 p.m., the second on Saturday at 6 p.m., and the third on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Formerly a Western Athletic Conference member, the Wolf Pack boasts one of the top offensive units in the MWC. As a team, Nevada has a conference-leading .307 batting average and .397 on-base percentage. It also has more runs scored (233), hits (370) and runs batted in (219) than any other MWC team.

The Wolf Pack features three of the top 10 hitters in the league, as well. Jasmine Jenkins is seventh with a .365 batting average, Karley Hopkins is eighth at .357 and Erin Jones is ninth at .353.
UNM head coach Erica Beach said Nevada features a well-rounded offense with both speed and power players. It comes as no surprise that the Wolf Pack is a force in the MWC, she said.

Beach also acknowledged her team’s inconsistency, whether at the plate, in the pitching circle or out in the field.

“Some games our offense is there; some games our defense is there. Some days our pitching is there, and other days it’s not,” she said. “One of our biggest challenges overall as a program is the consistency every day to play tough games.”

Sjostrand said the solution is a strong mental approach to the game, calling it the toughest aspect of the game. The team, she said, needs to establish more confidence at the plate and strike early against the hot-hitting Wolf Pack.

With a .329 batting average, freshman outfielder Mariah Rimmer is the only UNM hitter with an average above .300. Senior infielder Kaity Ingram and senior outfielder Cassandra Kalapsa are both hitting .257.

“We need to score runs early,” Sjostrand said. “Instead of waiting three or four innings to score, we need to get on top and make Nevada work hard to come back, make them hit the ball.”