Stevens: Senior Day Has Two Endings: One Happy, One Not Happy
May 6, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Softball - at Lobo Field
Sunday: UNLV Lady Rebels 7, New Mexico Lobos 6 (8); UNLV wins series 2-1
It was an afternoon that ended with smiles, flowers, hugs, a few tears, and lots of emotion which helped sooth the bummer of an ending in New Mexico's eight-inning Mountain West thriller with the UNLV Lady Rebels.
The Vegas Rebs spoiled Senior Day by rallying from a 6-0 hole to score four runs in the sixth, two in the seventh and the game-winner in the top of the eighth to stun UNM, 7-6.
The Lobos were not a happy pack as they gathered after going down one-two-three in the bottom of the eighth to join UNLV in the Mountain West cellar with identical 2-7 marks. However, the Senior Day celebration for UNM's five seniors -- Danielle Castro, Shenise Cox, Jessica Garcia, Kerry Hodgins and Jessica Lujan-Dresslar-- helped wash away some of the hurt.
"I'm going to miss them," said junior Sheryl Guillermo, whose diving catch out of a sprint in left field helped keep a couple of UNLV runs off the board.
"My class and their class have been through the coaching change and we have gone through so much together. It's a tough loss to lose them. They are all great athletes and it's a tough loss in the lineup, but it's a tougher loss here," said Guillermo, touching her heart.
The Senior Day ceremony had the five seniors escorted to the Lobo coach staff of Erica Beach, Lyndsey Angus and Christi Musser. The players and their escorts then marched to the center of the Lobo Field diamond for pictures and more hugs.
"These seniors have been such an instrumental part of this team's success and helping get us on the map," said Beach, referring to UNM's march into the Top 25 earlier in the season. "It's hard to say goodbye to five such amazing girls. They are fantastic athletes. They are fantastic students. They are fantastic people.
"They were perfect for this program. We knew it would be hard to let go of this group."
It also was a tough game to let slip away on Sunday. The Lobos (27-22) took control of the scoreboard with a 1-0 lead after one, made it 2-0 in the fourth, and then - thanks to a two-out dropped ball in right field - scored four unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Garcia had the big blast in the inning as she belted her 22nd home run of the season with Chelsea Anaya and Cox on base. Anaya reached base on a fluttering fly to right that popped off the webbing of the UNLV right fielder, who had to charge in to make the catch. Stefanie Carramusa, who reached base on a walk, scored on that miscue. Cox reached first on a fielder's choice and then Garcia sent a high shot over the center field wall.
That dinger pushed Garcia into a tie with Carramusa in the chase for the Lobos' 2012 home-run crown. The Lobos end the regular season May 10-11 at Colorado State.
The Lady Rebels scratched their way back into the game with their four-run sixth - a rally produced by five hits, a hit batter and a walk. The Lobos had no errors in that frame and UNLV left three runners on base.
UNLV produced the 6-6 tie in the seventh when Paige Emerson doubled and Stefany Valentino reached first on a walk. The Rebels bunted the runners down a base and they both ended up scoring to knot the game. The Rebs had a chance to go ahead in that frame but Lobo Kari Gutierrez fanned UNLV's Korin Cuico with two Rebels on base.
The Lobos helped UNLV in the top of the eighth by walking the Lady Rebs' ninth batter, Elena Fata, who was 0-for-3 on the day. Fata reached second on a blooper in the infield that forced the Lobos to go to first for the out. Fata scored the game-winner on a seeing-eye chopper that bounced over second base.
UNLV again had runners at second and third, but UNM's Gutierrez ended the threat with her second strikeout in relief. The Lobos went down one-two-three in the seventh and the eighth innings.
"It's disappointing when you have such a good lead," said Beach. "And we had a lot of opportunities to get out of that game. We didn't do what we needed to do on defense to keep them off the board - totally disappointing.
"But I told the girls that this isn't the end of the road. We still have three games that we can win and play together. It's been a whirlwind of a season. There are times when it feels like it takes forever and it's dragging, and then you turn round and it's almost over. It's hectic at times, but it's so much fun."
The Lobos end their season at Colorado State, which will carry a 5-4 mark into the series. If the Lobos sweep the three-game series, they will match CSU's record at 5-7. The Lady Rebels will try to avoid the MW cellar with a three-game series against San Diego State in Las Vegas.
"It was a hard one to lose," said Guillermo of the 7-6 loss to Vegas. "We worked hard for it, but they worked hard, too."
Guillermo said on her diving catch that she got some inspiration from her strength coach, Molly McKinnon. "I heard her on the line telling me I had it," said Guillermo. "I used her for inspiration. We needed something big at that moment and I knew I had to go all out. I knew I was close to the ball, but I had no choice but to dive for it."
The Mountain West crown is still up for grabs as San Diego State beat Boise State on Sunday, 7-1, to block the Broncos from the crown. The Aztecs can clinch the MW's automatic NCAA bid with two wins against UNLV.