Lobos Hand Gonzaga First Loss of Season

March 9, 2012

Box Score

ALBUQEURQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Lobos baseball team put together its best win of the season, defeating previously undefeated and No. 22-ranked Gonzaga, 11-6, Friday night. Kyle Stiner’s two-out, two-RBI double tied the score in the seventh, and pinch-hitter Trey Porras drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in a five-run eighth.

The Lobos, coming off a six-game losing streak and facing one of the hottest teams in Division-I, also had to endure frigid temperatures and snow flurries to hand the Bulldogs their first loss.

“It’s what we’re capable of,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. “I don’t care about our record. I care about growing to get better every day, and this team is capable of a lot.”

The Lobos jumped out to an early 4-0 lead against Gonzaga’s ace, Tyler Olson, by pounding out eight hits and scoring two runs in both the second and third innings. Meanwhile, Sam Wolff, making his fourth start of the season, held the high-powered Gonzaga offense in check through four innings.

The Bulldogs tied the game in the fifth, however, by way of two hits, one walk, and two fielding errors by Lobo left fielder John Pustay. Wolff went four and two-thirds innings and only allowed three hits, and all four runs scored against him were unearned.

In the sixth, reliever Hobie McClain hit Steven Halcomb to lead off the inning. Clayton Eslick followed with a double, sending Halcomb to third. Gera Sanchez then came in to relieve McClain and promptly hit Gonzaga’s third batter of the inning, Royce Bolinger, with his first pitch, loading the bases. A walk one batter later brought in the go-ahead run, and the Bulldogs tacked on one more with a sacrifice fly. The Lobos struck right back, though. Chris Nunez was hit leading off the inning, and advanced to third one batter later when Josh Melendez stroked a double to left. Mitchell Garver struck out for the second out of the inning to set the stage for Stiner’s game-tying hit. Stiner played one of his best games as a Lobo and tied a career-high with four RBIs.

“It was tough when they came back, and then when they (took the lead),” he said. “But we showed in the first few innings that we were right there and able to compete with them, so we had plenty of confidence.”

After Sanchez shut Gonzaga out in the top of the eighth, the Lobos batted around in the bottom half of the frame to leave no doubt who the victors would be. Alex Allbritton led off the inning with a single to left. Ben Woodchick then attempted to sacrifice him to second, but Allbritton beat the throw to put two runners on with nobody out. A passed ball moved both runners up one base, and Porras came through with the game-winning RBI. Sanchez came back out for the top of the ninth and closed the door in emphatic fashion, striking out the side.

“We finally tied up the ballgame and that gave me more energy,” Sanchez said. “It let me compete more and throw more strikes and get the job done. I was amped (in the ninth). The team got together and scored some runs and we did a good job today.”

“I don’t know what his ceiling is,” Birmingham said about Sanchez. “He’s capable of so much. He’s got so many different arm angles and so many different pitches from each slot.” The Lobos will look to hand the Bulldogs their second loss of the season tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. at Isotopes Park. Junior Austin House will get the start for the Lobos.

“We have to come out tomorrow,” Birmingham said. “They’re going to be like a beehive. They just got beat. We can’t rest on this. We have some things to work on, but we have a good baseball team here. If we continue to play as a team, and play fundamentally sound baseball . . . there’s great things coming.”