LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Feb. 8) - The New Mexico State softball team split its two games on opening day of the 2013 season during the Hotel Encanto Invitational on Friday, Feb. 8. NM State fell to the Nebraska Huskers 5-1 in the first game of the season, but came back for a powerful 8-1 victory over the Illinois-Chicago Flames in the evening game at the NM State Softball Complex.
In the first game of the 2013 season, the Aggies allowed the Huskers to strike first with a bunt from the lead-off batter. Two hits in the middle of the lineup brought around the run for NU, giving the team the lead over the Aggies. A quick first inning put NM State back on the field where the team allowed just one hit.
Senior pitcher Alex Newman pitched her first strikeout of the year to open the second inning, but a homerun by the Huskers put them up two runs going into the bottom half of the inning. A hard-hit double by sophomore Staci Rodriguez but the Aggies in scoring position with senior Tehani Kaaihue at the plate. She got on base off a single to the short stop, but the Aggies were unable to work their way around the bags.
With one run from Nebraska in the top of the fourth, the Aggies answered back with a solo homerun from sophomore right-fielder Malena Padilla. Two quick outs closed the inning with the Aggies on the board, trailing 3-1.
Nebraska earned two more runs in the sixth inning, a solo homerun from Tatum Edwards to left center and an RBI double that scored the runner from third after she reached base on a double of her own. NM State was unable to make up the ground in their half of the inning, leaving the Huskers with the 5-1 win as the two teams went scoreless in the final inning.
"I thought Nebraska had one of the strongest team's I've seen from them in a while," head coach Kathy Rodolph said. "I knew that we had to get out here and play some tough competition early so we knew what we were working with. It gives us an idea of what we need to work on with this team."
The Aggies made a promising lead early in the first inning as UIC pitched four straight walks to bring in the Aggies first two runs. As Rodriquez stepped to the plate for the first time in the game, she fired her first career grand slam and putting four more runs on the board and giving the Aggies a 6-0 lead in the first half inning. After freshman Tatum Reedy got on base by a walk, senior amber olive moved her along with a single to short. Sophomore Kelsie Dodd drove Reedy around for the seventh Aggie run in the inning with a single to right field.
NM State worked for three hits in the inning, but finished the day with a total of nine. Two of those came in the second inning when Rodriguez hit a single-run homer through the left side. Padilla came to the plate next for her second hit of the day, first of the game; a she got two bases off a shot to center field. The Aggies collected three more hits in the second inning before being retired off a fly ball to left field.
The Flames made its final attempt with a solo homerun in the top of the fourth as center fielder Melissa Preish drove one over the right field fence. The Aggies led off UIC, allowing just three hits on the game as Newman and sophomore Karysta Donisthorpe worked for four combined strikeouts in their five innings. It was freshman pitcher Makayla McAdams that closed out the night for NM State when she and the Aggie defense did not allow a single run in the last two innings.
"Every player got in the game today, and that was important for us," Rodolph said. "If we want to compete this season, we are going to have to use our pitching to our advantage. That is our strongest asset right now and that showed tonight in game two."
The Aggies continue to host the Hotel Encanto Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 9, as UIC and Nebraska open the say at 12:30 p.m., and the Aggies meet the Flames once more at 3 p.m.