Six-Run Ninth Lifts Lobos to Victory
March 22, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. –There are many reasons why Mitch Garver was a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award last season. He provided one such example Friday night.
His two-RBI double down the right field line capped a six-run, ninth-inning rally as the University of New Mexico baseball team (10-11, 3-1) came from behind to defeat Nevada (13-9, 2-2) 9-8 at Isotopes Park.
“He’s Mr. Clutch,” fellow All-American DJ Peterson said. “I think he has won four games (in the last at bat) since I’ve been here, so he’s Mr. Clutch … He puts the ball in play, does a good job, and right now he’s our hottest hitter.”
That’s for sure. The catcher out of La Cueva High School in Albuquerque is currently on a 20-game hitting streak, and his latest heroics provided the Lobos with a surprising win.
“We stole one, man, we stole one,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said with a little laugh.“Nevada’s got a good team.”
Garver was also rendered almost speechless.
“I still don’t know what to say about it,” he said as he smiled and shook his head almost thirty minutes after the game ended. “It’s huge to get a conference win like that over a very good baseball team. Those guys can play.”
Three pinch hitters got the big rally started. John Pustay recorded his third pinch hit of the season when he singled up the middle. Ryan Padilla followed with a walk on a full count. Erik Suarez then singled through the hole on the right side to load the bases for the top of the order.
“That’s their chance,” Peterson said about the pinch hitters. “(If) they get productive then maybe they get the lineup the next day … They did their job. Once Suarez got that base-hit to right field I knew that we possibly had a chance to get something going.”
Their successful at bats prompted the Wolf Pack to bring in their stud freshman closer, Michael Fain, who had allowed only two earned runs all season coming into the game and had an ERA of 1.59.
Chase Harris flew out to center, but it was too shallow to allow Pustay to score. Sam Haggerty then surprised everyone with a perfect bunt single to score Pustay and cut the lead to 8-4. Then came Peterson.
The junior had run into a bit of bad luck earlier in the game as a couple of his hard-hit balls were corralled for outs. He made up for that in the ninth with a double to left to drive home a pair.
Then with Luke Campbell at the plate came the break the Lobos, and Peterson, needed
Campbell bounced a ball to Nevada’s third baseman, Austin Byler. Haggerty broke for home, and when it looked like Byler was going to throw to first, Peterson broke for third. But the third baseman checked his throw and Peterson was hung up in the base path.
He sprinted back towards second, and Byler threw it to the Wolf Pack’s second baseman, Scott Kaplan. It appeared Peterson was caught for the second out of the inning, but when Kaplan moved to tag him, he dropped the ball. Peterson scampered safely back to second as the tying run with Campbell safe at first as the potential winning run.
“That play we got really lucky,” said Garver, who was up next.
After taking a called strike, he went the other way and sentthe pitch down the line in right. Peterson scored with ease and the speedy Campbell raced all the way around the bases and slid into home well ahead of the throw.
“The whole night I was just kind of seeing ball and hitting ball,” he said. “I saw a curve ball for a strike first pitch and after that I had to stay within myself, stay short with my hands, and he gave me a fastball low and away, and I poked it out to right field.”
The Wolf Pack opened the scoring in the second and did so without a hard-hit ball. A bloop single, two soft goundouts, and another bloop single gave them the first run of the game.
UNM’s first hit of the game came courtesy of a double by Garver to dead center in the second. It extended the senior’s hitting streak to a career-best 20 games. The Lobos didn’t get another hit off Nevada’s ace, Bradey Shipley, until the fifth when Alex Real led off with a double off the wall in left. A perfect sacrifice bunt by Josh Melendez moved him to third. Then Alex Allbritton got the green light on a 3-0 count and laced a single to left to tie the game at 1.
A passed ball moved Allbritton to second. An error by Nevada’s first baseman off the bat of Jared Holley put runners on the corners with only one out.
Holley then stole second and a throwing error by the catcher allowed Allbritton to score and give the Lobos a 2-1 lead. UNM had a chance for more, but a potential wild pitch with the bases loaded bounced right back to the Wolf Pack’s catcher and Holley was thrown out at home. Peterson then ran into some of his bad luck as he flew out to deep center to end the inning.
Failing to score more runs hurt all the more after the Wolf Pack rallied for four of their own on five hits in the top of the sixth, which for a while seemed to be too much for the Lobos to overcome.
Real knocked home Garver from second with a single to center in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to 5-3, but Nevada scored two more in the seventh and one in the eighth to make the score 8-3. They were threatening for more in the ninth as they loaded the bases with only one out, but redshirt freshman Victor Sanchez bore down and induced an inning-ending double play to Haggerty at second.
Real finished 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI, and a run.Garver led the team with a 3-for-4 performance. Peterson finished 2-for-5 and he was the only other Lobo to record multiple hits.
Lobo started A.J. Carman allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings, and Sanchez (1-0) struck out two in 1 2/3 scoreless innings to earn his first career win.
The Lobos will try to win the series when the teams meet again at 5 p.m. Saturday at Isotopes Park. Senior righty Sam Wolff will take the bump for the Lobos.
Notes: With San Diego St.’s win over UNLV the Lobos remain tied for first in the MW with the Aztecs … Melendez picked up his third outfield assist of the season, doubling off a Nevada runner at second base in the third inning … pitcher Alex Estrella pinch ran for Suarez in the ninth and scored the first run of his career … it was the sixth game all-time between the two teams, and five of them have been decided by two runs or less … Saturday’s game is Cowboy night. Fans in their best cowboy dress will receive a ticket for only $3.
REMINDER: DUE TO PBR AND A HOME SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT, PARKING WILL BE MORE CONGESTED THAN USUAL THIS WEEKEND. FANS ATTENDING THE BASEBALL GAME SATURDAY ARE ENCOURAGED TO PARK IN STADIUM EAST.