Lobos Defeat Aztecs in Conference Opener
March 16, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico baseball team had itself a vintage Lobo game, beating the San Diego State Aztecs, in the first Mountain West Conference game for both teams, by a score of 11-9 in front of 1,609 fans at Isotopes Park Friday night.
The game was vintage in the sense that runs and hits were plentiful in the back and forth contest between the conference rivals. After the Lobos jumped out to early 5-0 and 6-3 leads, the Aztecs tied the game at six before taking a 9-6 lead in the fifth inning. The Lobos then came back to tie the game in the bottom of the frame before going ahead for good with two more runs in the sixth.
DJ Peterson went 5-5 with his fourth and fifth home runs of the season and four RBIs, and every Lobo starter reached base at least once. Rio Rancho-native Josh Walker pitched four innings of relief to earn his first career win for the Lobos. Gera Sanchez pitched a perfect ninth to earn his second save.
“DJ had a great night,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. “He swung the bat the right way, sprayed the ball around the field, and hit a tape-measure homer. You can’t ask for anymore from a kid than he did.”
The Lobos managed to do most of their damage with two outs, scoring nine of their runs in that fashion, and it began in the first inning. Peterson singled to center and scored on a double by Josh Melendez.
“We hit the ball well today, which is great as a pitcher,” Walker said.
UNM added four more with two outs in the second. John Pustay walked with two outs and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Erik Suarez reached on an error by Aztec third baseman Cody Slader, which sent Pustay to third. Alex Allbritton singled to center, scoring Pustay. Ben Woodchick then singled to center, scoring Suarez. Kyle Stiner then drew a 10-pitch walk, loading the bases for Peterson. He lashed a single on the ninth pitch of his at-bat to left to score Allbritton and Woodchick.
“Offensively we did great,” Peterson said humbly. “We’ll take the win for sure.”
After San Diego State scored three times in the top of the third off starter Sam Wolff, Mitchell Garver hit his first home run of the season on a 3-2 pitch deep into the pavilion in left to increase the Lobos lead to 6-3. The Aztecs scored three more in the top of the fourth to chase Lobo starter, Sam Wolff.
Walker’s appearance had an inauspicious start. After retiring the first two batters with ease, he allowed five straight singles and San Diego State had regained the lead, 9-6. After that, however, he allowed only one more base-runner over his final three innings.
“Josh Walker held the game tight,” Birmingham said.
The Lobos struck right back. Peterson led off with his fourth home run into the pavilion in left, which was even deeper than Garver’s blast. Melendez walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Two outs later Pustay reached, and advanced to second, on a throwing error by shortstop Evan Potter, which also scored Melendez. Pustay then scored on a single by Suarez.
“We came right back and got those three runs back,” Walker said. “Nothing feels better than your offense having your back.”
In the sixth, the Lobos scored two more two-out runs. Peterson hit his second home run of the game that just barely cleared the wall into the visiting bullpen in left. It was the first time a Lobo had two home runs in a game since Peterson did it last May 20 against TCU. Melendez was hit with the very next pitch, and then stole second for his eighth steal of the year. Freshman Ryan Padilla singled to right to score Melendez and finish the scoring.
“We’re in first place,” Birmingham said laughing. “We still have some things to fix but we’ll take it. San Diego State has a good ball club.”
The teams continue the series tomorrow at Isotopes Park at 2 p.m. Austin House gets the start for the Lobos and San Diego State will counter with Travis Pitcher. The time for the series finale on Sunday has been changed to noon to accommodate the Aztecs’ travel schedule.