Stevens: Lobos Return From Austin Winless But More Prepared for MW Wars
April 1, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Softball - In Austin, Texas
Sunday: Texas 5, Lobos 0
Up Next: April 8 at Cal State Northridge, Northridge, Calif.
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
If you simply look at the scoreboard, the results of New Mexico's four-game visit to Austin, Texas did not feature any happy endings. The No. 25 Lobos (22-10) lost 5-0 Sunday to No. 6 Texas to fall for the third time to the Longhorns.
UNM also lost 2-1 to a solid Tulsa team on Saturday and UNM returns to Albuquerque 0-4 on Austin soil.
But the point of this trip to Texas wasn't simply about wins and losses. If Coach Erica Beach wanted to pad her record with creampuffs there were other destinations available.
The trip to Austin was a jump up the ladder of NCAA softball to challenge one of the better programs in the nation. It was a chance to get better, find positives, find things to work on - and maybe even take some lumps in the quest to improve. The Lobos' main goal in 2012 is to win the Mountain West title and enter postseason play.
It was a weekend of "almosts" but the lessons learned from those "almosts" are lessons the Lobos plan to carry into the more-important Mountain West Conference wars which begin April 20-21-22 when a good San Diego State teams visits Lobo Field.
The Lobos lost 2-1 to Texas (now 31-2) in nine innings and 2-1 to Tulsa (24-7). The Lobos came up with some solid pitching and those UNM pitchers faced some of the top batters in NCAA ball.
The Lobo sticks weren't exactly on fire in Austin, but the arms the Lobos faced from both Texas and Tulsa were outstanding.
In UNM's nine-inning loss to Texas, Carrie Sheehan and Kari Gutierrez held the Longhorns scoreless for seven innings and only gave up eight hits in nine innings. Sheehan and solid UNM defense held a good-hitting Tulsa team to no runs over the first five innings.
In 16 innings vs. Texas and Tulsa, UNM threw 12 innings of scoreless ball and four innings yielding only a single run in each of those frames.
The Lobos held a 3-2 led over Texas going into the bottom of the sixth in UNM's 7-3 loss.
Beach said the visit was about "preparation" for the MW run and the Lobos definitely will enter the Mountain race knowing that they have faced some of the top pitchers and hitters in the nation. Texas has out-scored their opponents at home by a 146-17 margin.
The Lobos ran into another hot pitcher Sunday in Austin as Blaire Luna twirled a 14-strikeout, two-hitter as the Longhorns ran their home mark to 19-0 record. The Longhorns' ERA at home is 0.74 which puts some perspective on UNM scoring one, three and no runs against the `Horns.
Blaire, a 2011 All-American, is 12-1 on the year and has allowed just one earned run at home in 55 1/3 innings pitched.
"They were scrappy," Texas Coach Connie Clark said of the Lobos. "They swing the bat extremely well so our pitchers were challenged. I thought Blaire (Luna) and (catcher) Mandy [Ogle] did a nice job on the defensive side of things with making adjustments throughout their solid-hitting lineup.
"To put up a shutout against them is pretty impressive."
The Lobos also ran into a hot bat on Sunday as senior designated player Nadia Taylor tied an NCAA mark with three doubles to pace Texas to their ninth consecutive win. Kari Gutierrez took the loss for New Mexico (22-10) after allowing five runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Texas led 1-0 going into the bottom of the sixth before the Longhorns plated four runs to provide a 5-0 cushion for Luna. Taylor tied the NCAA doubles' mark with a two-run double in the sixth off the wall in left center. Longhorn Karina Scott then came up and blasted a two-run homer to finish Texas' scoring in the sixth.
The Lobos had a chance to get on the board in the top of the seventh when Danielle Castro singled, Jordyn Bledsoe got hit by a pitch and Jordan Sjostrand walked. There were two out at that point and Luna got out of the jam by striking out Carramusa.
The Lobos next game is a doubleheader on April 8 at Cal State Northridge. The Lobos then return to Lobo Field for their MW opener vs. San Diego State.