UNM Falls to Arizona State, 4-3
May 31, 2013
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The Lobos' dream trip to Omaha, Neb., took a nasty detour Friday night in Fullerton, Calif., as the New Mexico Lobos were steered into the losers' bracket of the Cal State Fullerton Regional thanks to a 4-3 loss handed out by Arizona State.
The Sun Devils took final control of the scoreboard with a two-run homer by James McDonald in the bottom of the fifth that handed ASU a 4-2 lead. UNM cut that gap to 4-3 on a solo shot by Mitch Garver in the eighth, but the Lobos could not come up with one of the miracle finishes that so often marked their run through the regular season.
The home run by McDonald was the only earned run of the game for ASU as the Lobos committed three errors.
"The three errors is very uncharacteristic of us," UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. "The mistakes I saw were by people who got emotional and were brand new to regional play. Sometimes the ball seems to find the people who are new guys to regional play."
The Lobos played well enough to win, though, and had a chance in the top of the ninth as their top hitter, DJ Peterson, grounded out for UNM's final out with a runner on first.
The Lobos will play the loser of the Cal State Fullerton-Columbia game which will be completed later Friday night.
The Lobos got a solid start from Rio Rancho High product, Josh Walker, who went 7 1/3 innings giving up a single earned run and holding Arizona State to four hits. Walker did not get the usual help from the potent UNM lineup and was also hurt by the three errors - one coming off his arm.
"The errors were the difference in the game," Birmingham said.
The Sun Devils also got a solid start from Trevor Williams, who scattered eight UNM hits and allowed three earned runs before turning over the mound to ASU's ace out of the bullpen, Ryan Burr, with two outs and two Lobos on in the top of the eighth. Burr struck out Lobo Alex Allbritton to end the eighth.
Burr made a mistake in the ninth by walking UNM's Jared Holley to place the tying run on first with no outs. UNM's Chase Harris tried to bunt Holley down, but Harris popped up his attempt and ASU had a big out with Holley still at first.
Burr got Sam Haggerty to hit a deep fly toward the gap in left and ASU ran it down for the second out. That brought up UNM's DJ Peterson with two out and Holly on first. Peterson ended up chasing a low, breaking pitch outside the zone and grounded out to Burr, who underhanded the ball to first.
The Lobos' path out of the Fullerton Regional is now a daunting one. The Lobos have to win two games in the losers' bracket and then have to twice defeat the winners' bracket survivor. The Lobos are four straight wins from advancing to a Super Regional.
The Lobos were held to eight hits by the ASU combination of Williams and Burr.
"I wouldn't say (Williams) had his best stuff tonight, but he is such a top-tier pitcher that he pitches great even when he doesn't have his best stuff," Garver said. "He did well locating his fastballs and working his offspeed pitches."
Garver and Luke Campbell were the only UNM hitters to come up with two hits. The Lobos got only one hit out of their six through nine hitters.
ASU had only four hits, but they were timely hits and aided by the three UNM errors. McDonald's game-winning home run came after a teammate reached base on a UNM throwing error by Holley.
Gabe Aguilar relieved Walker in the bottom of the eighth.
The Lobo got a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Harris reached on a single to left and advanced to second when Peterson was hit by a pitch. Garver chopped one through the infield to score Harris.
ASU didn't waste any time tying the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the first. Kasey Coffman led off with a walk on four straight pitches by Walker. The Sun Devil advanced to third on a throwing error by UNM's Walker. Coffman scored on a sacrifice fly to left.
The Lobos helped ASU out with another miscue in the bottom of the third. Coffman doubled down the right-field line with two outs. He scored from second on a hard-hit, knuckling grounder to UNM's shortstop, Holley, who let the ball get past him and into left field.
"Holley is a fantastic shortstop and has done some great things for us," Birmingham said. "That was totally uncharacteristic of him."
ASU threatened in the bottom of the fourth getting two runners on with no outs. Walker got out of the jam inducing a fly to right, a pop foul to Garver and a ground out to second base.
UNM pulled into a 2-2 tie in the top of the fifth. Harris, on base on a fielder's choice, made it to third on a Haggerty single. Harris tagged up from third to score on a line drive to right field by Peterson.
ASU then scored two in the bottom of the fifth. The Sun Devils earned one of those runs as McDonald boomed an inside pitch over the right field wall. That blast was a two-run shot as Michael Benjamin was on first thanks to a wide throw by Lobo shortstop, Holley. UNM's Peterson tried to make a sweep tag on Benjamin, but the Sun Devil beat the tag.
"I didn't have my best stuff tonight," said Walker who walked a career-high four men. "I didn't locate like I usually do. The bottom line is we just played hard but got a little emotional. We have some things to fix and we're going to come back tomorrow and try and fix them."
UNM went into the sixth down 4-2 with three errors on the board. ASU's Williams walked Garver and then Campbell muscled a single into right center to give UNM runners at first and second. Melendez dropped a bunt to advance the Lobo runners to second and third. John Pustay came in to pitch hit with one out.
UNM made another little mistake. Pustay hit a chopper to third, but Garver broke on contact and was easily thrown out on his journey to home plate. Allbritton then hit a high chopper into the hole between second and first. The ASU second baseman tossed the ball to Williams, who was covering the base, and Allbritton was out by a half-step. ASU dodged a bullet inning and UNM lost an opportunity.
The 4-2 score carried into the top of the eighth with Trevor Williams still on the hill for ASU and facing Peterson in the leadoff position. Williams struck out Peterson on his eighth pitch to the dangerous Lobo. Williams then went inside on Garver on a 3-1 count and the UNM catcher hit a bomb over the left field wall: 4-3. ASU called a conference on the hill after Garver's shot, but Williams stayed in. The Sun Devil starter got a ground out and then hit Melendez on an inside pitch. Williams then walked Pustay and UNM had a threat brewing with runners on first and second. Williams then got the hook, turning the mound over to the bullpen's Ryan Burr with two outs and two on.
Burr, a fastball thrower, came in to face UNM's Allbritton. Burr got the strikeout setting up Allbritton with fast balls before dropping an offspeed pitch on the outside corner. Burr put out the Lobo fire in the eighth and ended it in the ninth. In the end, the Lobos' mistakes cost them and they didn't catch any breaks from a solid Sun Devil team.
"Baseball is a game of inches," Birmingham said, "and the one thing I think Arizona State has is they are very solid defensively on the infield, and they make really tough plays look routine. The (high chopper) that Allbritton hit was a tough play, and that changes the ballgame for us."
Senior righty Sam Wolff will start Saturday regardless of UNM's opponent. The game will be at 5:05 p.m. (MT) and will be broadcast by ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team. TV details have not been released yet.