Stevens: Lobos A Pitch And An Inch Away From Beating No. 21 Arizona State

April 10, 2012

Box Score

New Mexico Lobos Baseball - at Isotopes Park

Tuesday: Arizona State Sun Devils 3, New Mexico Lobos 1

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

Football has been described as a game of inches and Tuesday night at Isotopes Park the New Mexico Lobos' 3-1 baseball loss to No. 21 Arizona State could have been called a game of pitches - two the Lobos wished they could have back.

The first pitch New Mexico might like to recall was the fast ball that Lobo starter Sam Wolff teased the outside corner with - the pitch that ASU's Joey DeMichele reached out from the right side of the plate and slapped over the left field fence.

"It was a fast ball up and away, probably at the numbers and a little off the plate," said Wolff. "The kid made a good swing on it. I really didn't think it was too bad a pitch. He was able to lift the ball a little bit and it kept carrying and carrying and carrying."

The ball came off DeMichele's bat looking a little bit like a Texas Leaguer, but one with power - and carry. The smash was enough to provide ASU with its winning margin.

The Sun Devils added an insurance run in the top of the ninth when ASU's James McDonald walked and Beau Maggi lashed a two-out double. McDonald scored from third when UNM reliever, Will Mathis, tossed a pitch into the dirt.

That was the second pitch the Lobos would have liked to recall.

The Lobos had a mild threat in the bottom of the ninth when Ryan Padilla walked with two out, but UNM's Mitchell Garver became the third Lobo to go down on strikes in that frame. The loss dropped UNM to 15-17 on the year, taking away the Lobos' chance to reach .500 on the season.

"He (ASU's Jake Barrett) got me on the backdoor there, three-two (count)," said Garver. "It was a good pitch. He has a lot of velocity and he can snap off a mean curve ball if he needs to."

The Lobos struck first Tuesday and almost produced a big inning instead of the single run that came home in the bottom of the fifth.

Garver led off with a monster triple that carried to the wall between center and left. Trey Porras almost pushed Garver home with a sharp line drive that the ASU shortstop snagged at the peak of his jump.

The baseball game for Coach Ray Birmingham became a game of inches at that pivotal junction.

"The difference in the ball game to me was the line drive that Porras hit with runners on first and third," said Birmingham. "That changes the game for everybody. He (ASU's Deven Marrero)jumped up and caught it. That ball gets in the gap and we're in good position to win the ball game. It's a game of inches."

Porras' shot died in an ASU glove, but Alex Allbritton put the Lobos on the board with a long, high fly to left that Garver used to sprint home. He was the last Lobo to touch home plate on this night.

The Sun Devils didn't waste any time taking the lead. ASU's Marrero singled with two out in the top of the sixth. The Lobos held a meeting on the mound, but Wolff stayed in and delivered his pitch to DeMichele on the outside of the plate. ASU had a 2-1 lead.

That sixth inning ended it for Wolff, who had a solid outing pitching six innings, allowing four hits and two walks and registering five strikeouts.

Said Wolff: "Everything felt pretty good tonight. My mindset was different. I felt a lot more confident out there being able to throw my stuff for strikes and being able to work counts to my advantage."

ASU's starter, Alex Blackford, also was pulled after six innings and also had a solid line allowing six hits, one walk, one run and striking out five.

"Blackford did a good job keeping us off balance," said Garver. " He threw a lot of off-speed. He did a good job mixing it up.

"But on the other side, Sam Wolff did an excellent job. He stayed down in the zone where the umpire was calling it. He was throwing all three pitches for strikes. "It was a very even game."

The Sun Devils finished the game with three runs off seven hits and struck out eight Lobos. UNM had one run off only three hits and the Lobo pitchers struck out 11 ASU batters. Mathis struck out six in three innings of relief.

The Lobos next play at San Diego State on April 13-14-15. The Lobos top the Mountain West standings at 7-2 followed by TCU at 6-3 and the Aztecs at 6-3.

"It's a big series," said Birmingham. "We are in first place and they are playing well. "