Howard College teams shine on the diamond

The Howard College Hawk baseball and softball squads are taking care of business.Coach Britt Smith's baseball team lost both games of a doubleheader (Game One: 4-7, Game Two 2-6) to New Mexico Junior College on the road Saturday, delaying their claim to a conference championship.It's likely just a little speed bump, however, as the Hawks' Western Junior College Athletic Conference record sits at 21-6. With five games remaining, HC now only needs to win two games out of its final five to win the conference outright. A one game affair with Odessa College followed by a four-game series with Frank Phillips should give the Hawks ample opportunity to record the two victories.Clarendon College could help HC out as well. If Clarendon loses at least one game, it makes the Hawks' challenge even easier, as they would then only need to win one more game. HC will be advancing to the regional championship regardless of how its season ends, but seeding at the tournament — as well as bragging rights and a conference trophy — are at stake.Smith is confident that his team can get the job done.“Obviously, our goal is to go in and win conference,” Smith said. “We will try to work on our pitching, getting those guys ready. Offensively, we want to get some guys some at-bats — make sure everybody is healthy and ready to play.”Kelly Raines, head softball coach and her staff of athletes went on the road Saturday as well, taking both games from rival Odessa College (Game One: 5-2,Game Two: 12-9), locking in their conference title and securing a top seed in the region championship.Olive Naotala — who has been leading the nation in JUCO home runs — added two more to bring her regular season total to 28. Shelby Shelton, who just returned after suffering a broken jaw, also belted two out of the park. Jazzmin Arrant and Micherie Koria each homered as well to help guide the Hawks past the Wranglers.Sandra Serna picked up a complete game victory in Game One, and Naotala went the distance to earn the win in Game Two.Kelly Raines believes momentum is on her team's side, having received a first round bye and heading into the tourney on a three-game win streak against a tough opponent.“We feel great about it,” Raines said. “I am real proud of the girls. They have played well. They bounced back after losing Game One on Friday. It will come down to who plays well this week, but we think we are the best team.”Raines' team is the first in HC history to win the conference outright, though they have been conference co-champions in the past.The Hawks baseball team will start its final series against FPC on the road Wednesday at noon. Regionals are slated for May 12-16 in Lubbock.The softball squad will be headed to Lubbock this week begin its regional run. The softball regionals will begin Thursday and run through Saturday.