TWU’s Katie Hines was coming off an incredible weekend in the Pioneers’ sweep of Cameron on the road that earned her the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division II National Player of the Week honors.
Hines powered the Pioneers with five home runs and 13 RBIs, while driving in the winning run in each of the three games against the Aggies.
Hines leads the Pioneers with 18 home runs, but for opponents, Hines isn’t the only significant threat opponents have to deal with as Jordan Readicker, who also hit five home runs against Cameron, hits in the fifth spot behind Hines and also has 12 homers.
In Thursday’s doubleheader against Eastern New Mexico, the Zias were forced to pick their poison, but both Hines and Readicker administered more lethal home runs than they could handle as the Pioneers took the first game 6-2 and the nightcap 9-1 by run rule in six innings at Pioneer Field.
“The good thing about our lineup is you’ve got to pitch to us,” TWU head coach Richie Bruister said. “It’s the person behind them that’s giving them pitches and protection. They are waiting for their pitches and hitting the ball hard somewhere. They are both playing outstanding. I wish they had a co-offensive player because I thought J-Read had just as good as week. It’s a great position for me to be in to be able to coach that talent.”
Hines hit a home run in each game, but it was Readicker’s shot that escaped the field first as she homered in the first inning of opening game. Hines answered with one of her own two innings later.
“I’ve been chasing her for two years in home runs, so this year is finally my year,” Hines said. “I know she’s right there behind me. I’m just looking for my pitch up there and put a good swing on it. I’m not changing anything and I’m not trying to get a huge hit, I’m just trying to get the ball in play and get on base for my team.”
Fresh off her 7-for-14 performance against Cameron, Hines didn’t waste any time giving the home fans a taste of her power as she drove home Bailey Vrazel, who reached on a lead-off walk, on a single to center field to give TWU a 1-0 lead in the first.
The next batter was Readicker, who sent a bomb to deep center field for her 12th home run of the season to put the Pioneers ahead 3-0.
“Ever since [Bruister] started putting the lineup together, we knew that if Katie wasn’t going to do it, that I could do it,” Readicker said. “And if I didn’t do it, that Katie probably did it before me. If she gets on, either me or Kendra behind her are going to have the confidence to get on base just like her.”
The Zias battled back in the next inning with two runs as TWU starting pitcher Larisa Garcia struggled to locate her pitches in the early part of the inning. After earning two consecutive walks to lead off the inning, Jaqueline Candelaria came up with a full-count single to center field to draw the Zias to within a run at 3-2.
That would be all the runs Garcia (9-1) would allow as she pitched a complete game, allowing two hits to go along with five strikeouts to earn her ninth win of the season.
Not wanting to be outdone by Readicker, Hines answered Readicker’s home run with her 17th of the season to the near identical spot over the center field wall to make it 4-2. Readicker then reached on a single, Sarah Wittenburg was hit by a pitch to set up Ashley Maddox’s looping, RBI single over the shortstop’s head and into shallow left field that brought the score to 5-2. Haley Colwell then singled to right field for the Pioneers final run of the inning.
In the second game, the Zias (10-26, 3-7) didn’t wait long to get to Pioneers starter Brandie Lander, who quietly struck out nine in six innings while allowing just one run and two walks to earn her 14th win of the season, as Erica Armendarez’s RBI double put Eastern New Mexico up 1-0.
However, just as they did in the first game, the Pioneers (31-7, 9-1) shut down the Zias’ offense and responded with an Amanda Ruiz RBI single in the bottom half of the first that scored Vrazel, who walked, to even the score at 1-1. After Kendra Sancet and Sarah Wittenburg reached to start the second inning, Megan Leff’s RBI fielder’s choice gave the Pioneers the lead at 2-1 and Ruiz followed with her second RBI of the game on an infield hit to make it 3-1.
The Pioneers’ offense kept rolling, posting its third straight inning with runs as Hines’ home run to left-center field gave TWU the 4-1 advantage. The Pioneers then went up 5-1 with Jordan Readicker’s double and Sancet sent an sacrifice fly to right field to score pinch runner Karissa Hartwig.
Already up four runs, Ruiz deposited a two-run triple into the left-field wall to score Leff and Vrazel, giving the Pioneers an 8-1 lead. In the showdown that will likely be seen again in the final game of the series today, LSC Pitcher of the Week Alberta Medina couldn’t deter the LSC Hitter of the Week in Hines from belting the run-rule forcing, game-ending double to right field.
“They’ve been doing a good job of getting on base in front of me,” Hines said. “Everybody has been doing a good job of hitting lately. It’s great for me to come up and hit them in. I can make mistakes and she will be back there to bring in those runs.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873.
TWU 6, EASTERN NEW MEXICO 2
E. New Mexico
WP – Larisa Garcia (9-1). LP – Katie Ramsay (2-14). 2B – T: Kendra Sancet. HR – T: Katie Hines, Jordan Readicker.
TWU 9, EASTERN NEW MEXICO 1 (6)
E. New Mexico
WP – Brandie Lander (14-3). LP – Mary Jo Granger(4-4). 2B – E: Erica Armendarez. T: Hines, Readicker, Sarah Wittenburg, Megan Leff. 3B – T: Amanda Ruiz. HR – T: Hines.