Following up a doubleheader in which Howard College outscored Frank Phillips College 31-3 between the two games, the Hawk softball squad took it a little easier on Clarendon College on Saturday at Foundation Field. This time, Howard — which has won eight straight — allowed five runs on the day, taking Game One 16-1 and Game Two 12-4.
There simply hasn't been much competition for the Hawks (40-8, 15-1), who lead the Western Junior College Athletic Conference and are currently five games ahead of Midland College and Odessa College which are tied for second.
"We did a good job of coming out and being ready to go,” said HC Head Coach Kelly Raines of the two-game stint with Clarendon. “Our sticks were huge. Jillian Navarrete was big for us again and our pitchers did a great job as well.”
Navarrete is batting .388 and has nine home runs on the season, but there are plenty of big bats in the Hawks' lineup.
Jazzmin Arrant has the best batting everage in the conference with a .534 along with 20 homers. Elizabeth Torres is right behind her with a .504, Micherie Koria is batting .483 and Megan Granado is sitting at .452.
Granado, Torres and Arrant are the top three players in the conference when it comes to RBI also, with all three players averaging over one and a half per game.
Also complimenting the high-powered offense is the Hawk pitching staff, which has been stellar in the circle all season.
“Nikki Diaz pitched very well for us,” Raines said. Diaz holds a 9-1 record and ranks among the WJCAC's best with an ERA of 2.34 and opponent batting average — opponents are hitting a paltry .226 when Diaz is in the circle. Other Hawk pitchers have been lights-out as well. Alyssa Rangel and Kendall Maddox are approaching a total of 100 strikeouts between the two of them.
With a conference championship in sight, Raines said her team remains focused on a strong finish as they inevitably roll toward a Region V tournament appearance.
“We don't want to lose a game to a team we think we should beat,” Raines added. “Our goal is to keep winning — these girls like to win — we want to win the conference and win as many games as we can.”
Howard College will return to action Friday for a four-gamne affair with Luna College. Game times in Luna are slated for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. (MST), Friday and Saturday.
After dropping the first two games in Howard College's home-opening series at Jack Barber Field against Frank Phillips College, the Hawks charged back Saturday to edge the Plainsmen 5-4 in Game Three and a 9-1 rout in Game Four to earn the split.
When asked what adjustments were made from Friday to Saturday, HC Head Coach Britt Smith said it was simple — his team decided to allow themselves to be coached.
“We took better at-bats, we pitched better and we played better defense.” Smith explained. “It's nothing we haven't said to them all year long — they just listened.”
There were some changes made to the lineup, but a better day on the mound led to more success against FPC, the team which is battling HC for third place. Both squads hold 12-8 records and are trailing conference leader Odessa College by three games. New Mexico Junior College and Midland College are tied for second in the standings with records of 14-6.
“As a whole, we played better Saturday,” Smith said. “We didn't give away as many at-bats. That's a big part of it. We pitched better. When you're not playing from six runs or seven runs behind, it certainly helps.”
Next up for the Hawks will be a non-conference game against Midland College on Tuesday at Jack barber Field, but Smith isn't worried about figuring out what makes the Chaparrals tick, he is concerned with tightening up his players.
“We have to worry about us,” Smith added. “The wins were big for us, but we have a long way to go. We have to get better.”
Game time is set for 3 p.m.