The University of New Mexico softball team had a troubled start to their conference season coming into their home series against Fresno State 2-7, but they battled for three games and pulled out a series win against the Bulldogs. The series lasted from Thursday, April 14 to Saturday, April 16 and was played at the Lobo Softball Field. The series win bumps the Lobos’ overall record to 24-17, but their 4-8 conference record leaves the Lobos near the bottom of the pack in conference standings.
The Lobos played an incredible game Thursday night against the Bulldogs. Despite being out-hit 10-6, they still forced the game into extra innings, even though they did eventually lose. Friday night they were out-hit 11-7 but managed to pull off a 6-5 win thanks to their offense putting in the work. The afternoon game on Saturday saw the Lobos out-hit the Bulldogs 6-5 and take the series win with a score of 4-1, winning a series against Fresno State for the first time since 1993.
While Thursday night was a tough loss for the Lobos, there was still a lot to celebrate. Four out of the six hits for the Lobos were home runs, with two of those being two-run home runs. Briana Martinez accounted for the two solo home runs, and Andrea Howard and Taryn Young both delivered bleacher-clearing two-run homers. Howard’s home run broke another program record with a new total of 363 total career bases.
On her improved batting performance, Martinez explained that her play changed during the away series against Colorado State University that the Lobos played prior to Fresno State.
“I was like, ‘Okay, now it's time to really flip that switch and just have some fun and just do what I know what to do and just go on that train with everyone else,’” Martinez said.
The Friday afternoon game was an equally exciting game for the Lobos’ offense. Freshman Ashley Archuleta came into the game with zero home runs but managed to secure a three-run home run and a solo home run in back-to-back plate appearances for a grand total of four runs batted in. Martinez came in clutch again for the Lobos with a game-winning single through the right side that allowed Peyton Robinson to score and put the Lobos up 6-5, which secured the win after the Lobos held off the Bulldogs at the top of the seventh inning.
Archuleta, a freshman at UNM with a season batting average of .328, explained how great it felt to be having such hot at-bats and how impactful the season has been so far.
“(It’s been) a great learning experience, obviously; it's a great season and especially as a freshman, you learn something new every day” Archuleta said.
Throughout the three games, fans missed out on seeing Howard have more opportunities to add runs to the board as the slugger was intentionally walked nine times: three times during the game on Thursday, four times during the game on Friday and two times during the game on Saturday.
Hot off their 6-5 win on Friday, the Lobos showed up to Saturday’s game ready to add another “W” to their record. The Lobos got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning with back-to-back doubles from Emma Bramson and Robinson that added one run for the Lobos. Unfortunately, they couldn’t capitalize any further and ended the inning with two runners left on base.
The third and fourth innings saw both teams get singles, but pitchers Emma Guindon and Cassidy West for the Lobos and Bulldogs, respectively, put an end to any runs being added. Guindon, in particular, worked hard during the game, pitching all seven innings and adding five strikeouts to her record.
The bottom of the fifth inning is when the Lobos finally got a chance to put the pedal to the metal and establish some distance between the Bulldogs. Robinson got a single and Howard was intentionally walked, which set the Lobos up for success when Martinez doubled deep into left field and allowed both to score and make it a 3-0 ball game. A deep fly ball to right field by Bramson was all that Martinez needed to increase the score to 4-0.
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The Bulldogs tried to come back with a hit in the top of the sixth inning but couldn’t put any runs up. If it wasn’t for Mackenna Steele hitting a solo home run in the top of the seventh, the Bulldogs would’ve been completely shut out by the Lobos. In an exhilarating end to the game, Robinson made an incredible diving catch that secured the third out and officially made the Lobos the winners of the game and the series.
UNM head coach Paula Congleton said she was proud of the team’s performance in the series and was hopeful the team would continue to build off that momentum.
“I think we're kind of settling back into who we really are,” Congleton said. “We're not pressing. I think the kids kind of got in their heads a little bit of like, ‘Oh, we got one loss, we got two losses, we got three losses.’ And you know, when we start to press, we get tight, and we don't play the way we should. So I think hopefully, those days are behind us and we're ready to roll for the rest of conference.”
The Lobos will continue their conference play away from home against the University of Nevada, Reno for a three-game series April 22-24. The rest of the season will be conference play, with the Lobos coming home again for a series against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas April 29-May 1.
Shelby Kleinhans is the multimedia editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99