By Derek Gonzales
New Mexico State softball head coach Kathy Rodolph said earlier this season that this year’s schedule was made to increase the level of competition, as it would prepare her young team for WAC play. It continued this past weekend when NM State welcomed the 15th-ranked Missouri Tigers into Las Cruces for a three-game series.
After dropping the Saturday doubleheader by 9-6 and 14-3, the Aggies were unable to salvage a win against the SEC powerhouse and lost again, 5-1, on Sunday afternoon at the New Mexico State Softball Complex.
Senior Karysta Donisthorpe started in the circle for the Aggies, and lost her third straight decision, with her stat line being 3.2 innings pitched, giving up four runs, all earned, with six hits in 73 pitches to drop her record to 6-8 on the year.
The NM State offense has struggled as of late, scoring only 11 runs during their six-game losing streak. The Aggies came into the weekend hitting .356 as a team, but struggled to bring in runners in scoring position, going 2-16 with runners in scoring position on Sunday.
In the bottom of the first inning, NM State’s Rachel Rodriguez led off with a triple to left-center field, but the next three Aggie hitters were unable to get the ball out of the infield, leaving Rodriguez stranded at third to end the first frame.
In the top of the second inning, Missouri (20-4) drew blood first with an RBI single from Regan Nash, but Donisthorpe was able to get out of the inning without allowing Missouri to add to their lead.
The bottom of the second saw Corrin Green reach base via walk, Amy Bergeson single, and Tatum Reedy get walked as well, to load the bases with no outs. NM State was again unable to capitalize on the situation as they did not bring in a single run in the inning.
“Missouri is very talented, and they are a bit stingy with runs (2.88 team ERA), so I feel like as much as this might have been mental fatigue (NM State’s 11th game in 10 days), I have to tip my hat to their pitchers for being so talented,” said NM State head coach Kathy Rodolph after the game.
Missouri was consistent offensively, as they scored in three straight innings from the second to the fourth to take a 4-0 as the game as the game went into the fifth inning. Missouri’s Chloe Rathburn, whose 1.45 RBI per game average ranks eighth in the nation, hit a two-run home-run in the third and Emily Crane followed suit in the next inning, hitting a solo shot to right field.
“It’s very hard to limit their (Missouri) run productive, but today we made adjustments and played clean defense and pitched well,” said Rodolph.
NM State had another chance to close the gap in the bottom of the fifth inning when Las Cruces native Lucy Mendoza scored on a single by Emma Adams that was worsened by a Missouri fielding error. With runners on second and third and no outs, the next three Aggie batters were once again unable to bring in runs, as the scoring threat ended with NM State still down three runs at 4-1.
Tiger starting pitcher Danielle Baumgartner only went 1.1 innings, but she did not give up a run. Paige Lowary relieved her in the second inning, and though she did find herself with runners on base, she was able to maneuver out of jams against an Aggie offense that was tied with Missouri with a .356 battling average, which was good for 11th in the country.
Lowary had a productive weekend for the Tigers as she was the winning pitcher in all three games, improving her record to 12-2 this season. Now with 11 days before WAC play starts, the Aggies have time to reset physically and mentally.
“Anytime you have an opportunity to practice, you can identify things that need some work, then clean them up. This is a very hard working, talented group, and as much as I’m disappointed that we couldn’t win one of these games, I believe that this will help us as we head into conference play,” said Rodolph.
Looking ahead for NM State (20-16), they head into conference play in 11 days to defend their WAC championship with a three-game series against Seattle University with the first game being April 1 at six p.m. at the New Mexico State Softball Complex.
Derek Gonzales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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