Stevens: Beach's No. 24 Ball Mashers Host Lobo Invite

March 1, 2012

New Mexico Lobo Softball Invitational -- Lobo Field

Friday: Lobos vs. North Dakota at 3 p.m. vs. CSU Bakersfield at 5 p.m.
Saturday: Lobos vs. North Dakota at 3 p.m. vs. CSU Bakersfield at 5 p.m.
Sunday: Lobos vs. Utah at 11 a.m. GameTracker, Recaps, Stats

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

If you want to watch the No. 24 softball team in the nation, all you have to do is hit Lobo Field this weekend.

So, is Stanford coming to town? Or maybe Cal-Berkeley or Arizona? Is it some power from the SEC or one of those hot-shot teams from Texas?

No, it's the University of New Mexico Lobos - the program, which two short seasons ago was losing 23 of 24 games and went 1-14 in league play. This is the UNM team picked to finish fourth in the five-team 2012 Mountain West race.

"It's nice to be recognized on the national stage for the work that they've done," said second-year Coach Erica Beach. "They had to beat some tough teams to get to this point.

"They are all over the moon right now. It's a great marker of what we've been able to accomplish."

Of course, things have changed with Lobo softball. It's probably not even fair to call this the same program since Beach and her talented crew took over the UNM diamond. These Lobos have spunk, swagger, passion and great belief in their ability.

"No fear," said Beach.

The Lobos also have gone national - ranked No. 24 - and this weekend they go local hosting the 10-game Lobo Softball Invitational. This is the first time in 12 seasons that the Lobos have stepped onto their home dirt as a ranked team.

They did it by pounding out a 13-2 record.
They did it by pounding then-Top 20 teams Texas A&M and Oregon.
They did it by pounding other teams that had beaten Top 25 teams.
They also did it by simply pounding the softball.

Friday's Games
CS Bakersfield vs. N.Dakota
3 p.m.: UNM vs. N.Dakota
5 p.m.: UNM vs. CS Bakersfield

Saturday's Games
10 a.m.:
Utah vs. N.Dakota
Noon: Utah vs. CS Bakersfield
3p.m.: N.Dakota vs. UNM
5 p.m.: UNM vs. CS Bakersfield

Sunday's Games
9 a.m.:
N. Dakota vs. Utah
11 a.m.: UNM vs. Utah
1 p.m.: CS Bakersfield vs. N.Dakota

The Lobo women are mashers. They have hit 31 home runs. They hit 23 in the 2010 season. UNM goes into their Lobo Invite with 150 hits and are hitting a savage .350 as a team.

The Lobos have six players hitting .300 or higher and those players have a slugging percentage that ranges from .560 to 1.065.

So, who do you pitch around on this murderer's row lineup? Check out these sticks: Jessica Garcia (.491), Stefanie Carramusa (.453), Shenise Cox (.413), Kerry Hodgins (.380), Chelsea Anaya (.348), Jessica Lujan-Dresslar (.300), Jordyn Bledsoe (.267) and Jordan Sjostrand (.262).

The Lobos have seven players with dingers with Cox and Carramusa with eight apiece. Garcia has six out of the park.

"We are getting production up and down the lineup," said Beach. "That's fun to see."

The teams facing the Lobo bats this weekend are North Dakota, Cal State Bakersfield and Utah, a former member of the Mountain. One thing appears to be crystal clear at this point. If you want to hang with the Lobos, you need to hang with them on the scoreboard. UNM has 125 runs in 15 games for an 8.3 average.

"We don't want this to go to our heads," said Beach of the early success and the ranking. "We want to make sure we are still driven to continue to improve."

The Lobos won't be facing any ranked teams this weekend and need to hold serve at home in order to stay in the rankings. The Bakersfield Roadrunners come to Lobo Field with a 3-8 record. North Dakota is 5-6. The Lobos play those two teams twice.

UNM's biggest test might be Utah which comes to town with an 11-3 record and riding a seven-game win streak. The Utes haven't faced as tough a schedule as the Lobos, but they hit at a .309 clip and have a strong arm in Generra Nielsen, who is 7-2 with a 1.41 ERA.

The Lobos went through the first 14 games of the season without Kara Gutierrez, but the 5-2 junior is being worked back into the UNM rotation with Kaela DeBroeck (8-0) and Carrie Sheehan (5-1).

"Having three pitchers is going to be really important for us, especially during the next few weeks when we are traveling four weekends in a row," said Beach. The Lobo coach said the two-pitcher rotation was demanding on DeBroeck and Sheehan because even when one pitcher was on the plate, the other one was warming up for possible relief work.

"That's a lot of pitches," said Beach. "Now, the pitchers can have more off days and get more rest. I have equal faith in all of them."

The Lobos have matched the program's best start at 13-2 and have a good chance to set a new mark with a win Friday. The 1984 Lobos started 13-2, but fell to 13-4.

"I hope we can use this (being ranked) as motivation to continue to climb the rankings," said Beach. "It's such a different feeling for them that I don't know if they know how to handle it."

So, far the Lobo hitters seem to know exactly what to do: See the ball, hit the ball. That's probably what they'll do this weekend at Lobo field.

"A chance to play at home is so much fun for our girls," said Beach. "But we have to continue to focus. We aren't settling for anything yet. We aren't satisfied.

"All of this is to prepare for conference. We can't look at the big picture yet. We have to take it one game at a time. "