Lobos Begin Second Half of Mountain West Play at Nevada

April 18, 2013

Lobo Baseball - at Peccole Park, Reno, Nev.
When: Friday, 7:00 p.m. (MT), Saturday, 2:00 p.m. (MT), Sunday, 2:00 p.m. (MT)
Who: Nevada Wolf Pack
GoLobos.com: Gametracker, live stats, box score, postgame recap and stats
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Mountain West Standings

PlaceSchoolMW recordOverall record
1 New Mexico 11-4 21-16
2 San Diego St.  10-5 19-17
3 UNLV 8-7 24-12
4 Nevada 7-8 19-17
5 Air Force 4-9 10-23
6 Fresno St. 3-10 8-24

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The red-hot Lobos begin the second half of Mountain West play with the school's first ever trip to Reno, Nev., to play the Nevada Wolf Pack. UNM has won four straight, eight of 10, and 12 of its last 17. The hot stretch began, coincidentally enough, with a six-run ninth inning at Isotopes Park against the same Wolf Pack the team is about to face. That was also the last game UNM played at Isotopes Park before moving the rest of its games to Lobo Field. Coincidence? Possibly, but the fact that the Lobos now have a true home park of their own is certainly a factor.

Around the same time the Lobos started heating up is when senior outfielder Josh Melendez began turning his season around. Heading into the Nevada series on March 22, he was hitting only .253 and was striking out in nearly a fifth of his plate appearances. Since then, however, he has been on a tear. He owns a career-best 16-game hitting streak heading into the weekend. He is hitting .407 (24-for-59) during the streak, with 13 runs, 13 RBI, eight doubles, two triples, his first home run of the season, three steals, and only two strikeouts in 71 plate appearances.

Mitch Garver has been even hotter than Melendez since Nevada came to Albuquerque. In the past 17 games the senior catcher is hitting .418 (28-for-67) with 17 runs, 20 RBI, five doubles, two triples, a home run, five stolen bases, and a .597 slugging percentage. If the Lobos are to win this key road series against the Wolf Pack, it will need both Garver and Melendez to continue their hot play.

Nevada will look to shut down the Lobos with their ace and potential first-round pick, Bradey Shipley, Friday night. The junior from Medford, Ore., has been lights out for the Wolf Pack, posting a 2.60 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 65.2 innings. Offensively Nevada has been leaning on the formidable trio of Austin Byler (.375, eight home runs, 35 RBI), Brooks Klein (.341, three home runs, 25 RBI) and Kewby Meyer (.325, two home runs, 14 RBI, only 13 strikeouts) as they look to claw their way back into the MW race.

• SCOUTING NEVADA ... The Wolf Pack enter the second half of Mountain West play in fourth place in the conference, only a game behind UNLV. They have been scuffling a little the last few weeks as they have lost six of their last eight games. They did, however, take two of three from UNLV on the road last weekend. Their offense is paced by three of the best hitters in the MW: sophomore third baseman Austin Byler, senior outfielder Brooks Klein, and sophomore first baseman Kewby Meyer. Byler leads the team with a .375 average, 29 runs scored, eight home runs, 35 RBI, a .662 slugging percentage and a .453 OBP. Klein is batting .341 and leads the team with 10 doubles and is second behind Byler with three home runs and 25 RBI. Meyer is hitting .325 and is one of the toughest players in the conference to strike out, having done so only 13 times in 123 plate appearances. The pitching staff is led by potential first-round pick Braden Shipley. The junior out of Medford, Ore., is 5-1 with a 2.60 ERA. He has struck out 65 in 65.2 innings and is holding opponents to a .213 average. Saturday’s starter, sophomore Tyler Wells, has also done well for the Wolf Pack, posting a 4-2 record with a 3.67 ERA in nine starts. The bullpen is anchored by freshman closer Michael Fain, whom the Lobos rallied against during their six-run ninth in a 9-8 victory on March 22 at Isotopes Park. Defensively Nevada has turned 38 double plays, while hitting into just 19. The Lobos, meanwhile, have already hit into 34 this season.

• TAKING BASES AND TAKING NAMES ... In their 13-6 victory over New Mexico St. on April 17, the Lobos stole seven bases, which is tied for the fifth most ever in a game in school history. It was the most since the Lobos swiped eight bags against BYU on April 8, 2000. Josh Melendez (2), Chase Harris (2), DJ Peterson (1), Mitch Garver (1) and John Pustay (1) all got in on the action. UNM now has 54 stolen bases in 37 games this season after swiping 61 in 61 games in 2012.

 LOBOS SWEEP AWARDS ... Following a week in which they went 4-1, including a sweep of MW foe Fresno St., Lobos Josh Melendez and Drew Bridges were named MW Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively, on April 15. Melendez went 10-for-19 with a double, triple, and home run as he extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games. Bridges got the win in a 3-0 shutout in the first game of a doubleheader at then-No. 10 Arkansas on April 9. He went a career-long 5.1 innings and allowed only three hits while striking out three.

• THIS ONE ALSO GOES TO 12 ... Entering the eighth inning on April 13 trailing the Fresno St. Bulldogs 3-2, the Lobos needed a rally. They got one in a big way. The first 12 batters of the inning reached base and each one eventually came around to score. It is the most runs scored in an inning in the Birmingham era. The last time UNM scored 12 runs in a frame was April 15, 2007 at Air Force. (The Lobos also scored 12 runs in an inning earlier that season against Rhode Island on March 11 at Isotopes Park.) The last time the Lobos scored more than 12 in an inning was on March 11, 2005, at Isotopes Park against Savannah St. UNM scored 15 runs in the second on its way to a 20-7 victory.

• JUST LIKE THEY DREW IT UP ... Freshman RHP Drew Bridges has been spectacular in his last two starts. On April 2 against Texas Tech he allowed two runs on two hits in five innings to earn his first career win. One week later at 10th-ranked Arkansas on April 9 he was even better. He gave up only three hits and one walk in 5.1 shutout innings as the Lobos defeated the Razorbacks 3-0. In his past 10.1 innings he has only allowed five hits (all singles) and three walks with six strikeouts. Of his five hits allowed, three haven’t even left the infield. Not bad for a player who came to UNM this past fall as a shortstop.

• NO REST? NO PROBLEM ... Senior catcher Mitch Garver doesn’t take days off. You can always pencil him into the lineup no matter what. Need proof? He has started 159 straight games over the past three seasons, including all 37 so far in 2013. That is believed to be the third longest active streak in the country.

• 1,000 WINS ... UNM head coach Ray Birmingham reached 1,000 career wins when the Lobos defeated Air Force 19-5 on Saturday, April 6. He spent the first two years of his career at College of the Southwest, the next 18 years at New Mexico Junior College, and is now in his sixth year at the helm of the Lobos. He has averaged over 39 wins per season in his career overall, and 33 per season at UNM. His 166 wins in his first five years is the most a Lobo coach as ever had in their first half a decade on the job, narrowly beating out the 165 Vince Cappelli won from 1977-82, and it has come against the five toughest schedules in program history. In 2013 the Lobos have played 10 of their 37 games against teams that have been ranked in the Top 25 at some point during the season.

• DOUBLE TROUBLE ... DJ Peterson moved into a tie for third place with Robert Gonzales on the school’s all-time doubles list with 68 after knocking one against Fresno St. on April 13. He only needs two more to move into sole possession of second place. Daniel Stovall holds the school record with 78 during his career from 2004-07.

• 200 233 AND COUNTING ... Senior catcher Mitch Garver reached a milestone against Nebraska on Saturday, March 2, by recording his 200th career hit. He is only the second player in UNM history whose primary position was catcher to reach that plateau. Former All-American Rafael Neda used to hold the record for career hits for backstops at UNM with 233, until Garver passed him in his first at bat against Air Force on April 6. He singled through the left side in the first inning and added two more hits that game. He now has 247 career hits as he adds to his lead with every hit he collects. He has a chance to reach the Top 5 for career hits at UNM by the team the season ends. Dusty Young is currently fifth in school history with 286.

 FOLLOW MY LEAD ... The Lobos have had their leadoff man reach in 143 of 331 innings this season for an OBP of .432. That beats the team’s overall OBP of .416 and is a big reason the team is fourth in the country averaging 7.9 runs per game.

• DUCK! ... Lobo batters have been hit by 49 pitches in 37 games so far this season for an average of 1.3 HBP per game. If they keep up their current pace they will move into second place on the school’s single-season list by the end of the year.

 FIFTH-YEAR PITCHING ... Senior left-handed pitcher Gabe Aguilar is having his best season to date in the cherry and silver in his fifth season in the program. He has been one of the Lobos’ most reliable relievers all season. Two stats in particular stand out for him. 1) Opponents are just 2-24 (.083) against him with two outs. 2) Even more impressive is his success as a lefty against right-handed batters as he has held them to a .195 (8-41) batting average.

• EXPECT RUNS EARLY ... Both the Lobos and their opponents are scoring early and often this season. In the first inning of games the Lobos (35 runs) and their opponents (38) have combined to score 73 runs.