March 23, 2013
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Freshman Anna Cross belted a grand slam home run and earned her first collegiate win in the circle to lead Louisiana Tech to an 8-4 win over New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference opener Friday night at NMSU Softball Complex.
"I thought we really stepped up tonight," said Tech head coach Mark Montgomery. "We put the loss to Stephen F. Austin at home behind us and really came out tonight and played well. We made some quick adjustments at the plate and made some great plays both offensively and defensively. There were a lot of individuals that came through. It's nice to see because this was really a team win."
Cross (1-1) got off to a shaky start in the circle, walking two batters, hitting a third and allowing two hits and two runs in the first before settling down to induce an inning ending double play ball.
"Anna struggled in the first inning," Montgomery said. "We hadn't seen that from her. She pressed a little I think. She maintained her composure and got the double play ball. Then to turn around and get an at bat and answer the bell with the grand slam ... you really saw her confidence go through the roof. That was the difference in her performance the rest of the game."
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the second, Cross stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs and sent an Alex Newman fast ball over the left field wall for her third home run of the season - her first career grand slam. The blast gave Tech a 4-2 lead, the Lady Techsters the momentum and Cross all the confidence she would need the rest of the way.
All four runs were unearned as a key error by NMSU freshman third baseman Emma Adams kept the inning alive. Alayna Kipp started the rally with a one-out single followed by the fielding error by Adams on a ground ball by Janna Frandrup. Meghan Knowles then followed with a single to load the bases.
Tech continued to add to its lead in the top of the third inning. Hailey Winter and Alayna Kipp were both hit by pitches and Melanie Goff singled to load the bases with one out before Frandrup hit a bloop single over the first baseman's head to plate a run, giving Tech a 5-2 lead.
Knowles then plated a run with a fielder's choice force out at second base before Tech stole the final run of the inning on a double steal attempt that allowed Kipp to score from third before NMSU tagged Knowles for the final out of the inning. Tech led 7-2.
"NMSU is a formidable offensive team," Montgomery said. "You have to limit their offensive output and maximize yours. The fact we were able to keep adding on runs gave us some breathing room. We didn't have to press. It was very important."
Tech appeared as if it were ready to blow the game wide open in the top of the fourth inning as Dacia Hale, Cross and Amanda Krueger all singled to load the bases with no outs. Pinch hitter Claudia Cantu then hit a grounder to Adams at third that was booted for an error as Hale crossed home plate for an 8-2 Tech lead.
However, Newman pitched out of the jam, retiring the next three batters without allowing a run.
Frandrup came on in relief of Cross to start the fifth and worked a one-two-three inning thanks to a stellar defensive play at third base by Michelle Jones, who robbed the Aggies of a for-sure hit.
NMSU began the bottom of the sixth with a single and double off of Frandrup as Montgomery reentered Cross in the circle. Cross retired pinch hitter Lacey Rother on a sacrifice fly to right field, plating one run and cutting the lead to 8-3. After a walk and a bunt single loaded the bases, Cross got the second out on a force play at home.
The Aggies scored their final run of the inning and the game on a fielding error by Tech which allowed Adams to score. However, Cross then got Tehani Kaaihue to line out to Jones at shortstop to end the inning.
NMSU started the bottom of the seventh inning with a single by Staci Rodriguez before Kelsey Dodd grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Cross got the final out on a pop up by Malena Padilla to end the game.
Cross (1-1) picked up the win, allowing two runs on five hits and five walks with one strikeout. Newman (8-8) took the loss, allowing eight runs - three earned - on 11 hits and one walk with three strikeouts.
Offensively, Tech was led by Cross (2-3, 4 RBI, 1 run), Alayna Kipp (2-3, 2 runs), Goff (2-4, 1 run), Krueger (1-4), Kristen Miles (1-3), Cantu (1 RBI), Frandrup (1-3, 1 run, 1 RBI), Knowles (1-4, 1 run, 1 RBI), Hale (1-3, 1 run) and Winter (1 run).
The two teams will play a doubleheader Saturday with game No. 1 slated for 5 p.m. CT.