Aggies interrupt Lobos hot start with softball sweep

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UNM senior Andrea Howard watches her hit during Tuesday’s doubleheader against New Mexico State. She belted out a home run in every game. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

There did not appear to be any thunderclouds over the University of New Mexico softball field in a doubleheader game against rival New Mexico State on Tuesday .

But the Aggies apparently rained down on what had been the Lobos’ parade with a sweep, winning 12-8 in the opener and 8-5 in the final drink.

New Mexico (15-5) entered the doubleheader on a 10-game winning streak and a great story of promise with a 15-3 start after a 10-36 season a year ago.

The Lobos led 7-3 through the first five innings on Tuesday, but the Aggies (4-11) then outscored UNM 17-6 the rest of the doubleheader.

Errors haunted the Lobos in the doubleheader as they committed 10 errors, including seven in the opener.

UNM coach Paula Congleton refused to use the absence of leading third baseman Emma Bramson as an excuse, but it was clear the Lobos looked out of sync without her.

Bramson was involved in a car accident as a driver, which resulted in her car being boned Tuesday morning, Congleton said. Bramson, who is from Valencia, Calif., is stable and OK but in concussion protocol, Congleton said.

Bramson had four homers on eight hits with three doubles and nine RBIs at the South Coast Invitational in Santa Barbara, Calif., where the Lobos went 5-0 last week.

“It had an impact on the team,” Congleton said of Bramson’s accident. “I make no apologies, not at all, but we had different people playing third base.”

UNM coach Paula Congleton huddles with outfielder Peyton Robinson, left, in Tuesday’s home opener against New Mexico State. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Bramson along with senior outfielder Andrea Howard have been instrumental in getting the Lobos off to a flying start this season.

Howard, the former La Cueva star, hammered a three-run home run in Game 1 against the Aggies and a solo shot in the nightcap. She has nine home runs this season and 38 homers for her career, two off the program record.

Freshman shortstop Ashley Archuleta of Cleveland High led UNM in the opener, going 3 for 4 with an RBI, a run and a walk.

“Our team chemistry has been absolutely amazing,” Howard said of why the Lobos have had a “special” season so far. “We built our foundation on positivity. It helped us keep our energy on the pitch and stay in tune while playing.

Congleton believes the Lobos have improved considerably as they were able to spend time together last fall as opposed to 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We took the kids on retirement,” said Congleton, a former UNM who is in her fifth season as Lobos coach. “They got to know each other. They trust each other. We really built the pack mentality. We travel in wolf packs. I really feel like that’s part of it.

“We brought in players who pushed other players,” she continued. “That’s what’s important. These children love each other. It doesn’t matter who’s in the game, they’re 100% behind each other and that’s what creates really strong team chemistry and team bonding.

The Lobos have also had good pitching this season, but the Aggies’ bats got the better of that battle on Tuesday with 20 hits, 11 in the last drink. NMSU first baseman Kayla Bowen went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, including a three-run homer in the opener. It appeared difficult for the Lobos to recover.

“Mistakes happen and bad plays happen,” Howard said. “I’m thankful it happened earlier in the season and not in the conference. I really think we’re going to learn from this and just play better.

The Lobos, who are competing in the Dixie State Tournament in St. George, Utah, this weekend, will face the Aggies at NMSU on March 22.

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