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Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 11:34pm
The New Mexico State softball team continued its early season success with two more victories as host of the Hotel Encanto Invitational over Minnesota and Colorado State at the NM State Softball Complex Sunday afternoon.
The Aggies edged Minnesota 7-6 in their first game of the day before toppling Colorado State 10-1 in the Invitational finale. With the wins, NM State improved to 6-0 with sweeps of the Golden Gophers, Rams and Bears of Northern Colorado this weekend.
The six-game win streak to open the season is one win shy of the program’s best start also under head coach Kathy Rodolph in 2009 when the Aggies sprinted out to a 7-0 start.
After defeating Minnesota 15-7 in six innings Saturday evening, the Aggies battled the Golden Gophers again in their first game Sunday. As a quirk of the tourney schedule, the Aggies were “visitors” in the contest.
Senior outfielder Kandis Jones started the Aggies off in the first inning with a one-out walk. Jones then moved to second on a ground out before classmate Hoku Nohara singles to right field to score the speedy Jones and make it 1-0 Aggies. Sophomore shortstop Teresa Conrad kept things going with a bloop single down the right field line to advance Nohara to third. Freshman Valerie Swedberg batted with two outs and reached on a Minnesota error that scored Nohara to increase the NM State lead to 2-0 before the final out.
Sophomore Carissa Theis started in the circle for the Aggies but the Minnesota offense got started right away to match the Aggie scores.
Malisa Barnes opened with a double for the Golden Gophers. Two batters later Alex Davis singled to left center to score the leadoff hitter and trim the Aggie lead to 2-1. Minnesota’s fifth batter, Kari Dorle, hit a two-run homer to score the base runners and give the Gophers the lead 3-2 at the end of one.
NM State evened the score in the top of the second. Senior Tiffany Autry drew a walk to open the frame. Redshirt junior Brittany Clifton singled to left to put runners on first and second. Senior Kylie Randall reached on a fielder’s choice to move Autry to third and later stole second to put two Aggies in scoring position. Minnesota pitcher Sara Moulton walked Jones and Nohara to score Autry before recording a final out, making it 3-3.
Minnesota responded with a run in the bottom of the inning. Allie Siu singled to left. Aubrey Davis reached on an Aggie error and moved to second on the throw behind Siu at third. With one out, Barnes hit a sacrifice fly to score Siu and give the Gophers a 4-3 lead.
After a quiet third inning, NM State exploded for four runs in the top of the fourth.
Jones, junior Tiare Jennings and Nohara recorded singles to open the inning with Jones scoring on the third hit to tie the game at 4-4. Swedberg rifled a one-out double to score Jennings to put NM State in the lead, 5-4. Swedberg would later score after Autry reached base on a Minnesota error. Sophomore Tehani Kaaihue, who reached on a fielder’s choice, would post the final run of the inning for the Aggies after Clifton reached on an error by Golden Gopher pitcher Moulton.
In the bottom of the fourth, with senior Alex Villalobos in the circle Minnesota began to rally back. Aubrey Davis singled and Barnes homered with one out to clear the bases and bring Minnesota to within one run at 7-6. Junior Sydney Williard came on in relief soon after and got the home squad out of the inning.
Neither team could mount much offense in the fifth inning.
Prior to the game Minnesota requested a “drop-dead” stoppage time of 2 p.m. MT for travel reasons. As the teams entered the sixth inning of play, time expired in the bottom of the sixth and the game was called by the umpires. As a result, any plays in that frame did not count toward the final score.
As a result, NM State pulled out the one-run win in five innings for its fifth win of the year, while Minnesota dropped to 0-4 this season.
In game two, NM State matched up again with Colorado State - a team the Aggies knocked off in five innings on Friday evening.
Sophomore Alex Newman earned the starting pitcher nod for the Aggies and retired the Rams in four at-bats in the first inning.
The NM State offense took command in the bottom of the first against CSU’s Kelsey Jo O’Brien. Randall reached on an error to open the inning and moved to second on a wild pitch. Jones singled to left to put runners on the corners for the Aggies. Jones stole second before Jennings hit a sacrifice fly to score Randall and move Jones to third, putting NM State ahead 1-0. Nohara walked and moved to second on a passed ball before Conrad hit her second home run of the season for a 4-0 Aggie lead.
Colorado State scored its only run of the game in the top of the second to chase Newman out of the circle. Junior Kelsey Schueler came on in relief of Newman to get NM State out of the inning with two Rams left on base.
In the bottom of the third, NM State increase its lead to 5-1 after Jones scored on a sacrifice fly by Conrad.
The Aggies put the game away in the bottom of the fourth with five runs. Kaaihue hit a solo home run with one out on the board to make it 6-1. Freshman Alyssa Ruiz singled down the left field line. Junior Shaleese Javillo came into the game to pinch run off Ruiz before CSU made a pitching change.
NM State’s bats kept rolling against new Rams pitcher Desiree Laswell. Randall walked; then both base runners moved up on an illegal pitch. Jones singled up the middle to score Javillo and advance Randall. Jennings belted a home run over the outfield wall to clear the bases and give the Aggies a 10-1 lead.
Schueler retired the side in the top of the fifth to give NM State its sixth win of the year. CSU dropped to 2-2 this season with both losses to NM State.
The Aggies look to remain perfect in the coming weekend when they host the Troy Cox Classic Feb. 18-20. NM State hosts ULM, Sam Houston State, Southern Utah and No. 9 Oklahoma.
The ninth-ranked Sooners are 5-1 this season after surprising No. 2 Arizona 11-1 in five innings before falling 4-3 to No. 13 Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., this weekend.