ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico softball team scored four runs in the seventh inning but it wasn’t enough, suffering a 12-11 loss in the first game of the series against Utah State on Friday at Lobo Softball Field.
“You can’t help but be proud of the team for fighting so hard,” said head coach Erica Beach. “That was the number thing. They never gave up no matter what the score was. We stayed in the game until the very end and as a coach that makes me very proud.”
Heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Lobos were trailing 12-7. The offense rallied for four runs but wasn’t enough to get past the Aggies. The inning started with a one-out walk from Mia Hignojos and Willow Kalinen singled to left center, pushing Shelby Lucero, who pinch ran for Hignojos, to second base. Brandi Heimburg loaded the bases with a hard shot right back at the pitcher. Utah State got its second out which put Naomi Tellez at the plate, a consistent, dangerous hitter for the Lobos.
The Aggies intentionally walked Tellez which plated the first run, bringing another tough bat to the plate, Mariah Rimmer. All she needed was one pitch as she hit the ball hard to right center for a bases-clearing triple and put the Lobos within one of tying the game and two of taking the victory. Jasmine Casados, a power hitter for the Lobos, was walked and brought Jordan Sjostrand to the plate. With a 1-0 count, Sjostrand popped up to third to end the game.
Utah State got off to a quick start, plating five runs in the first inning. The Lobos answered with three of their own, including Tellez’s sixth homer of the season, a two-RBI shot to left center. Sjostrand blasted a triple that scored Casados, who reached base on four balls.
“Naomi had a heck of a day. She was dialed in at the plate and really confident at the plate. She has been one of our most consistent hitters throughout the year. She came out fired up. Hitting that long ball right off the bat was that emotional boost that we needed.”
The Aggies took a 6-3 lead in the second but the Lobos fought their way back with a run in the bottom half of the inning, an RBI single from Tellez that scored Casados.
Two more runs were plated in the third and fourth innings for the Aggies but New Mexico’s bats couldn’t stay quiet as it put up three runs in the fourth to cut the Aggie lead to 8-7.
The bases were loaded after back-to-back singles and a walk from Kalinen, Heimburg and senior Ally Hakeem in that order. Tellez then came up and blasted a double down the right field line to score Kalinen and Heimburg.
Carrie Sheehan (5-9) suffered the loss in the circle for the Lobos, allowing 12 runs off 13 hits while walking seven and striking out three. Lisa Rodrigues came in to relieve Sheehan in the sixth inning and kept the Aggies scoreless for two innings. She allowed one hit and walked three.
Tellez was the producer tonight as she was perfect at the plate, going 3-for-3 with six RBIs, the most RBIs she has had in a game in her Lobos career. She also walked twice and scored two runs.
“Honestly, she is one of the best hitters I have seen and to walk her with bases loaded shows a great deal of respect. She should be very proud of herself for doing that. What gets overlooked is that she is calling pitches and is working her butt off behind the plate. She has been a great leader on the field and for our pitchers. That almost gets over looked because of how good she is offensively.”
Along with Tellez’s six RBIs, Rimmer also knocked in four runs for the Lobos, which is the third time in her career that she has collected four RBIs in a game.
Heimburg and Kalinen also had three hits for the Lobos. Heimburg was 3-for-5 at the plate with a team-high three runs score. Kalinen went 3-for-4 with her three hits coming off a bunt, slap and power to left center. She also was plated twice.
“Willow is lights out. She has grown so much since the first weekend until now. She was unsure of herself in the beginning and it took time for her to settle in and get confident. She has power and she can drop the bunt and run it out. She also slaps really well. She is so dynamic that she is really hard to pitch to and you never know what she is going to do because she will take whatever the defense is giving her and then she will take advantage of it.”
New Mexico drops to 14-32 on the season and is 5-14 in the Mountain West. Utah State is now 18-27 overall and is now one win ahead of the Lobos with a 6-10 MW record. The two will face off tomorrow for the second game of the series at Lobo Softball Field with the first pitch at 1 p.m.
“It’s the same story, if we can hold the team minimal runs our offense will produce. We know we have a strong lineup, versatile lineup. We have to keep the scoring down and quite giving up free bases and throw shutout innings. If we do that, we are going to be really successful.”
“That has been the story of the year and I have no doubt that if our pitchers come out and throw a really tough game that we are going to win a lot of ball games but until that happens there is going to be a lot of high scoring games. It’s hard for a team to have to score 12, 13, 14 runs to win a ball game.”