The Chadron State College softball team will be the first of the team programs at CSC to compete against New Mexico Highlands University this academic year, when it travels to Las Vegas, New Mexico, to take on the Cowgirls on Saturday and Sunday in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference series.
The university suspended all sports for the fall and winter seasons after state Covid-19 regulations made full in-person attendance, and thereby team practices and travel, unfeasible. New Mexico required nearly anyone entering the state to quarantine immediately, so hosting events was out of the question.
That changed just in time for softball season, as travel restrictions were eased beginning in February.
The Cowgirls, now 4-12 all in league play, went right to work, making their longest trip of the season at the end of February, when they traveled to Black Hills State. There, they split a series with the Yellow Jackets 2-2.
In its home opener, NMHU split again, with Regis, winning games two and four just as it had the previous weekend.
From there, Highlands went 0-8 against Colorado School of Mines and MSU Denver.
Statistically, NMHU ranks in the bottom half of the league in batting, pitching, and fielding. However, they maintain a puncher’s chance with four players batting over .350 for the season. They are junior outfielder Camrynn Ziegler, freshman first baseman/catcher Carlee Gonzalez, freshman third baseman Megan Gutierrez, and freshman second baseman Savannah Pineda Chavez.
Three of the Cowgirls’ top four offensive weapons are slugging over .500. That trio has collectively produced 23 of the team’s 37 extra base hits, which include six home runs.
The pitchers for NMHU have not fared so well. Starters Paige Varni, a freshman, and sophomore Nathalie Blattmann, have combined to allow opponents a near-.400 batting average and give up an average of 6.76 earned runs.
Highlands has only been shut out once this season, finding a fair amount of consistency on offense.
The Cowgirls are coached by first-year head softball coach Kevin Jannusch, who arrived last summer after an assistant coach position at Missouri Valley College.
The Eagles (4-12, 4-8 RMAC) hope to right things in Las Vegas, after a 4-3 start in-conference led to their current skid of five games.
CSC will need to find a rhythm in the pitching circle, where it gave up an average of seven earned runs per game over the losing streak.
Its team batting average is on the rise, however. Chadron State has batted .344 as a team in its past seven outings.
The doubleheaders at NMHU begin at noon on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday.