Apr 212005
Authors: Scott Bondy

After sweeping a struggling New Mexico Lobos team earlier this month, the Rams head south for another doubleheader Saturday.

The Rams know that no game is a guarantee and no lead is secure when it comes to Mountain West Conference softball.

"We can't take any team lightly," said senior second baseman Steph Roberts. "We need to compete the same way for any team."

Although CSU won both games by scores of 5-4 and 4-1, going to Albuquerque, N.M., will certainly be a challenge. The Lobos are playing great ball at home, where they are 10-2. At opponents' ballparks, however, they are a dismal 0-12 and at neutral sites they are 3-10.

The Lobos (13-24, 3-7 MWC) have lost six consecutive games dating back to their first meeting with the Rams on April 9. The Rams (27-16, 6-4 MWC) went 2-3 last weekend but won their last two games against Utah.

"Our team is coming off two conference victories and we're going to carry that with us down there," said head coach Mary Yori.

Sophomore Ryanne Hodgins leads New Mexico. She is hitting .338 (45-for-133) and has tallied 19 runs while holding a perfect fielding percentage. Hodgins has already surpassed last season's totals for runs scored, hits and RBIs.

Between these two teams, second-year players have stepped up big this year, as CSU has its own impressive sophomore in Jessica Strickland. She is hitting a massive .391 while leading the team in at-bats (138) and hits (54).

"Jessica Strickland has been playing great for us with her at bats and from the mound," Yori said. "Kerry Farrell has also been hitting the ball really well and Britney Huerta has been consistent all season."

Strickland has the lowest earned run average on the team at 2.02 in 125 innings while going 10-7.

Pitching has been a concern this year for the Rams. Although the team ERA is a meager 2.53, compared to opponents' 4.22 ERA, games have just been slipping by the Rams.

"Pitching needs to continue to improve," Yori said. "We could give up a few less runs here and there."

All remaining games for both teams will be significant, considering the conference championships are less than a month away.

"These conference wins are important if we want a shot at first place," Roberts said.

The Rams are in third place in conference, three games behind leader Brigham Young.

Action this weekend begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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