Stevens: Beach's Lobos Storm The Softball Beach In Palm Springs

Feb. 22, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Softball - at Cathedral City Classic - Palm Springs, Calif.

Thursday: 1:30 p.m. (MT) Vs. Texas A&M (8-2); 6:30 p.m. (MT) Vs. Oregon State (7-3)
Friday: 9:30 p.m. (MT) Vs. Cal State Fullerton (5-6)
Saturday: 2 p.m. (MT) Vs. UC Davis (4-8)
Sunday: 2 p.m. (MT) Vs. Cal Poly (1-4)
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

You have to wonder if maybe Lobo baseball coach Ray Birmingham gave Lobo softball coach Erica Beach some advice on her scheduling.

Something like: "Fire and frying pans are good. Fire and frying pans make you better."

Birmingham likes to throw his diamond boys against the best and that's what Beach is doing to her diamond Lobos. They open the Cathedral City Classic on Thursday playing No. 16 ranked Texas A&M, catch their breath, and play Oregon State of the tough Pac-12.

Yes, the Oregon State Beavers who are coming off a 22-5 pounding of one of the old bullies of the Mountain West - Brigham Young.

"We have to come out focused," said Beach.

Then the Lobos move on to play three California teams and, if you know anything about softball, you know that California is loaded with blue-chip talent. UC Davis beat Stanford 2-1 on Feb. 15.

"We're excited. We did this on purpose," said Beach. "We booked the best tournaments in the country, so we could play the best teams. These are the games that will get us ready for postseason and what will get us ready for conference."

The Lobos have it tough in Palm Springs, but their schedule hasn't been a tiptoe through the tulips and they take a 9-1 record into Palm Springs. The Lobos went 5-0 in a Tempe, Ariz., tourney and 4-1 in their Lobo Classic.

They appear more than ready to tangle with A&M and Oregon State.

The A&M Aggies bring a five-game win streak into Palm Springs. They already have wins over two of the premier softball programs in NCAA ball: No. 9 Stanford and No. 8 Arizona. The Aggies have a couple of strong pitchers on the plate in Lindsey Sisk (1.26 ERA) and Mel Dumezich (2.58).

Texas A&M has only a .213 team average in the batter's box, but they have seen some top arms so far in the young season. The Lobos are pounding the ball at an amazing .353 clip with three Lobos hitting .412 or better, three more hitting above .300 and two more Lobos hitting above .259.

So far, this is a tough Lobo lineup to pitch around.

"We have multiple players hitting in the .400s," said Beach. "We have home runs out of seven of our nine batters. Our power numbers are fantastic."

UNM already has 25 home runs and 82 RBIs on the year. Jessica Garcia and Shenise Cox have earned back-to-back Mountain West Player of The Week honors. Cox has seven dingers on the season and Stefanie Carramusa has six. Garcia is hitting .500.

These Lobos have drastically improved in Beach's second season and no doubt a few more questions about this team will be answered after A&M and Oregon State - and after this tournament.

The Lobo pitchers will be tested, but maybe the biggest test will come from the Beavers, who pounded Brigham Young 22-5 in the Kajikawa Classic on Feb. 9. Oregon State has a strong pitcher in Marina Demore, who has posted a 1.67 ERA. Oregon State also hammered Idaho State 16-3.

"Oregon State has put up some big numbers," said Beach. "We'll be tested. They are a good challenge for our team."

The Lobos opened the season 9-0 but lost the last game of their Lobo Classic on Sunday when the game was called early with Purdue up 10-6. The game was on a clock as the Boilermakers had to leave Lobo Field in order to catch a plane.

"With the way our team has performed late in games, I have no doubt we would have come back and scored some runs," said Beach. "We've recovered from it."