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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Softball: Lobos win first MWC series against Utah

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By Di Linh Hoang / New Mexico Daily Lobo

New Mexico senior in elder Chelsea Anaya, right, runs from the field during a game against Utah State on Sunday. The Lobos won two of the three games against the Aggies this past weekend to win their first series of the season.

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For the first time all season, the New Mexico women’s softball team defeated a Mountain West team more than once in a series.

Senior day provided late heroics as the Lobos (16-32, 7-14 MW) defeated Utah State 6-4 in the series’ rubber match.

“Senior day is always a special day for the team,” said Erica Beach, the team’s head coach. “We wanted to do something special for them.”

On a particularly windy Sunday, UNM came out of the gates strong. Starting pitcher Lisa Rodrigues shut down the Aggie offense for the first two innings.

However, in the third, Utah State (18-29, 6-12 MW) exploded with four runs. UNM was able to tack one run to the bottom half of the inning, providing some life for the Lobos against Utah State’s ace, Noelle Johnson.

New Mexico ran into trouble in the top of the fourth inning, after Rodrigues gave up two singles.

Beach swapped Rodrigues out for Lauren Soles, who threw 3.2 shutout innings after entering the game in a difficult situation.

“It was a matter of just holding them after they scored that four,” Beach said. “Luckily, she got us out of that inning and threw a couple of shutout innings, too.”

Soles said she wasn’t fazed by coming into the game under difficult circumstances. She said she wanted to win for the team on senior day.

“I looked at my seniors,” Soles said. “They give me the confidence that I needed, every game.”

UNM was able to put up another run in the bottom of the fourth inning that brought the Lobos within striking distance at 4-2.

Soles had to work out of another jam in the fifth inning, after allowing a single followed by two walks. However, she responded with two strikeouts to disappoint her opponents loading the bases.

In the sixth inning the wind began to pick up, blowing in toward home plate.

UNM had a couple of runners on base in the bottom of the sixth. After a passed ball, the Lobos had a chance to plate two runs with the tying runs on second and third.

Michala Erickson, UNM’s shortstop, hit a towering fly ball to left field that appeared as though it would be caught. However, the gusting wind blew the ball back toward the edge of the infield, where USU’s shortstop Jolene Koons was the only player with a chance to make a play.

The wind-directed pop-up bounced in and out of Koons’ glove, plating the tying runs. UNM added two more runs against Johnson for a four-run bottom of the sixth inning.

“This offense is so potent. It’s hard to keep us down for seven straight innings,” Beach said. “Not one pitcher has really kept us down for too long in a game.”

Soles finished the game off with her least dramatic inning: she didn’t allow any runners to get into scoring position.

“It was really cool for us to do that for senior day,” Soles said. “We showed everyone that we can win a series and can do it.”