Lobos Rout Air Force, Move Closer to MW Regular-Season Title
May 4, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The 17th-ranked University of New Mexico baseball team moved one step closer to clinching a share of the Mountain West regular-season championship as it earned its eighth straight MW series victory with a dominating 17-1 win over the Air Force Falcons in front of 658 fans Saturday afternoon at Lobo Field.
With the win the Lobos can clinch a share of the title with a victory over Air Force on Sunday. Both UNLV and San Diego St. are six games back with seven conference games remaining in the season.
The Falcons (13-32, 5-18) scored one in the first, but after that it was all Lobos (29-17, 19-4). UNM batted around in both the third and fourth innings to tally 11 runs in those two frames. The Lobos then added one in the fifth, one in the sixth, and two in both the seventh and eighth innings as they recorded a season-high 25 hits.
Alex Allbritton led off the fourth with his first home run of the season, and only the second of his career, as part of a 4-for-5 day with four RBI.
“It was a first-pitch curveball,” he said. “My previous at bat he threw me a first-pitch changeup, and Coach (Birmingham) told me to be a little more patient at the plate, but I just couldn’t help but swing at that.”
Senior Sam Wolff got the start on the mound on Senior Day and had one of the best outings of his career. After allowing a leadoff double to open the game, he allowed only three more hits the rest of the way over a career-long 7 2/3 innings. He walked just one and tied a career-best with seven strikeouts as he threw 67 of his 104 pitches for strikes.
“I kind of fell into a groove and pounded the zone,” he said. “I was trying to get a lot of groundball and flyball outs and let my defense work.”
Due to the lopsided score, the most dramatic moment of the game came in the bottom of the eighth. Josh Melendez was still in search of his first hit of the contest to extend his hitting streak to 25 games, and he needed some help because he was due up sixth in the inning.
Pinch hitter Logan Lippert got the inning started with a single to left, and Sam Haggerty drew a full-count walk. DJ Peterson then reached on a fielder’s choice and Mitch Garver fouled out, leaving it up to Erik Suarez to get his teammate another at bat. The senior watched two strikes go by before taking a ball. He then smashed a 1-2 pitch to center for a single to give Melendez one last chance.
The Lobos’ center fielder also watched two strikes go by before lacing an 0-2 pitch to right that dropped just in front of Air Force’s Jake Schomaker for a single that kept his hitting streak alive.
Melendez was the only Lobo starter not to have a multi-hit game. Chase Harris joined Allbritton with four hits to lead the team, while Peterson, Garver, and Luke Campbell all finished with three apiece. Like Allbritton, Peterson also drove in four runs while Garver drove in three. Peterson and freshman Jared Holley led the team with three runs scored.
The Lobos are now one win away from not only their fourth straight MW series sweep, but also a share of the MW regular-season title, which would be their second straight.
“I think we’re sitting pretty,” Allbritton said. “The team is playing well right now. We’d like to limit the games like yesterday, though, those last-minute, heart-attack style wins. We’d like to play more like today.”
Wolff agreed with his fellow senior.
“We’re having fun right now, playing hard, and playing the right way,” he said. “(But) we’re always going to keep our foot on the gas pedal. We’re going to try to win every single game no matter where we are in the standings. We’re going to enjoy these two wins, but we come out tomorrow and it’ll say zero-zero on the scoreboard.”
First pitch for the home season finale Sunday will be at 1:05 p.m. at Lobo Field. It is Military Appreciation Day so all active military, veterans and their families will receive tickets for just $3 each. The game will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team with Robert Portnoy, the voice of the Lobos, providing the play-by-play.
Notes: Peterson recorded his 75th career double, only three shy of the school record … senior Gabe Aguilar tied the school record for most team wins in a career with 141 … Holley was hit by his 15th pitch of the season, which is tied for the MW lead … Garver had a two-run triple, his fifth of the year, which is also tied for the conference lead … at the conclusion of the game, the season batting average of every Lobo starter was above .300.