New Mexico nearly pulled an upset over No. 25 Texas A&M in the final game of the Mary Nutter Classic in Palm Springs, California on Sunday, but the Lobos fell an inning short in an 8-7 loss. As a result, UNM went 3-2 in its second tournament to open the 2016 campaign.
The New Mexico softball team opened its 2016 season with two wins and three losses at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, over the weekend. The Lobos started the tournament Friday afternoon with a 2-1 victory over San Diego, with runs from right fielder Jade Gray and shortstop Michala Erickson.
New Mexico’s softball team last year surpassed its preseason poll. After being projected ninth in the Mountain West in the coaches poll, the Lobos finished the season fourth in the standings. According to this year’s poll, the MW coaches expect UNM to match that finish. The poll, released earlier this week, slotted the Lobos fourth heading into the season.
It was a productive weekend for the New Mexico softball team as the Lobos took the series against Colorado State with a 7-4 win on Sunday. The Lobos fell 2-0 to the Rams on Friday but took a 4-3 win on Saturday. UNM head coach Erica Beach said the rubber game would be difficult. “We always have competitive series against Colorado State, no matter what the records are,” she said. “We had great pitching, great hitting and great defense today. It was a tough fought game ... I’m really proud of these girls for toughing it out and being gritty.”
Quality performances from the pitching circle have granted New Mexico the ability to win without relying solely on offensive production. Head softball coach Erica Beach said hitting has been a strong point for the Lobos all season, but the pitching staff gives New Mexico a new dimension to have confidence in as the squad enters Mountain West play against Utah State today. “For our pitchers to have really been hitting their stride right now is something that we’ve needed,” Beach said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what they can do in conference.”
New Mexico enters the start of the softball season with great confidence after an undefeated fall and three nominations for preseason All-Conference players. However, the Mountain West feels differently. The Lobos are projected to finish dead last in the conference this year following last year’s departure of four key starters. “We did lose some big sticks, but I feel that we have kids that have stepped up,” head coach Erica Beach said at the softball media day press conference. “I feel we have more bats in the lineup that can get it done now and I’m very confident.”
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.
Head coach Erica Beach arranged the beginning of the New Mexico softball season with a sink or swim frame of mind. “We have faced off against the best teams in the country… The experience we gained was huge,” Beach said. “I was hoping at the beginning of the season that it wouldn’t backfire, that we wouldn’t shut down as a program.
Home games have provided a luxurious safe-haven for the New Mexico softball team after a horrific start to the season. UNM (7-14) completed its first sweep of the season and has won six of their last seven games at Lobo Field. Head coach Erica Beach said that coming home has done wonders to get the team back into the mentality that they need.
Erica Beach was in Oklahoma City in 2002 playing in the Women’s College World Series with Arizona State. Beach, New Mexico’s softball coach, will return to the area next week, providing assistance to those suffering the effects of Monday’s massive tornado.
This weekend it’s softball’s turn to begin the MWC schedule. New Mexico, coming off a doubleheader sweep of Siena on Sunday, kicks off its MWC slate Thursday with a three-game road trip against San Diego State.