Garver, Peterson Earn Co-MW Player of the Year Honors Again

May 22, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Second verse, same as the first.

At least that’s the case for UNM’s DJ Peterson and Mitch Garver, as well as their head coach, Ray Birmingham. For the second straight year Peterson and Garver were named Co-Mountain West Players of the Year, and Birmingham was named Coach of the Year in the conference. Second baseman Sam Haggerty was named Co-Freshman of the Year. In total the Lobos had six players on the All-Mountain West first team and three on the second team the conference announced Wednesday morning.

Joining Garver and Peterson on the first team were senior shortstop Alex Allbritton, senior outfielder Josh Melendez, both repeat first teamers from 2012, and senior pitchers Sam Wolff and Gabe Aguilar. Haggerty, sophomore designated hitter Alex Real and senior outfielder Luke Campbell were named to the second team.

“I felt like there were some other kids on our club who deserved (to be named All-Conference) too, but the votes didn’t go that way,” Birmingham said. “At the end of the day the individual awards are nice, but this is a team effort and we’re all working towards the same goal. Everyone on this team is All-Conference to me.”

Birmingham led UNM to its second straight MW regular-season title and set several league records along the way. The Lobos won all 10 conference series this season, partially thanks to a MW-record 14-game winning streak, on their way to a 25-5 record. The 25 wins were the most ever in conference play and helped UNM win the league by seven games, which is the highest margin in conference history.

“It’s humbling and it’s cool and I’m proud,” he said, “but the honors for the kids are way more important to me. Trying to figure out a way to get to Omaha is what I want to do.”

He also mentored Garver and Peterson as they finished 1-2 in the league in batting at .416 and .407, respectively, and tied for the league lead with 42 RBI.

“It’s an honor,” said Peterson who won the league’s overall Triple Crown (.400, 16 home runs, 67 RBI) for a second straight year. “Mitch Garver had a great year. I think it went to the two best players and there’s no one else I’d rather share it with.”

Peterson led the conference in doubles (16), slugging (.769), on base percentage (.525) and tied for the lead with seven home runs. Garver was first in hits (52) and his 82 total bases were second only to Peterson’s 83. He tied for second with 12 doubles and was third in both slugging (.656) and on base percentage (.479).

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” the senior and Albuquerque native said of sharing the award with Peterson. “Like last year I think it would have been unfair if one of us got it over the other. It feels good and it’s exciting. I had a lot of goals coming into this season after being undrafted (last year) and this was definitely one of them.”

Birmingham was proud of his All-Americans, but he stressed they didn’t do it alone.

“What they did this year means so much to this club,” Birmingham said. “Their leadership is so important to us. All the coaches in the conference agreed on them and I think that’s cool. Those are definitely the guys with the best numbers, but this has been a team deal the whole way. There have been so many Lobos who have contributed to this and we still have a long way to go.”

Sam Haggerty was named Co-Freshman of the Year after leading the conference with 37 runs, five triples and a MW record-tying 26 walks.

Haggerty hit .299 and led the conference with 37 runs scored and five triples. He and Peterson tied the league record with 26 walks. He also set a freshman record by recording 100 assists in the field.

“It’s an honor,” said the Denver native who shared the award with Fresno St. pitcher Blake Quinn. “It feels good to help this team as we try to reach our ultimate goal of getting to Omaha (and the College World Series).

“I didn’t really have any expectations coming into the season. I just wanted to play hard and see what happened and good things happened.”

Birmingham campaigned hard for Haggerty and his hard work paid off.

“This is a big honor for him,” he said. “It’s just one of many honors I see in that young man’s future.”

Allbritton hit .367 and slugged .505, while Melendez was fifth in the conference in both hitting (.372) and on base percentage (.467) and sixth in slugging (.594). It’s the first All-Conference honors for Wolff, who went 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA that ranked second in the MW, Real, who hit .349 and was fourth in slugging at .624, Campbell, who hit .363 and drove in 25 runs, and Aguilar. Birmingham was especially pleased for Aguilar, a fifth-year senior who battled back from labrum surgery two years ago to go 4-2 with two saves and 22 strikeouts in 22 innings.

“Gabe Aguilar is a big deal,” he said. “That’s a heck of a story. He fought through shoulder injuries and could’ve quit but he didn’t. It’s a tribute to him and his family. His perseverance is inspiring.”

Earlier in the day Aguilar was named a semifinalist for the inaugural Gregg Olson Award for Breakout Player of the Year.

The Lobos play their first game in the MW Tournament Thursday at 8 p.m. (MT) as they try to back up their regular-season crown with a third straight tournament title as well.

All-Mountain West First Team

Catcher Mitch Garver New Mexico Senior
First base Seth Kline Air Force Junior
Second base Tim Zier San Diego St. Junior
Third base DJ Peterson New Mexico Junior
Shortstop Alex Allbritton New Mexico Senior
Outfielder Aaron Judge Fresno St. Junior
Outfielder Josh Melendez New Mexico Senior
Outfielder Brandon Bayardi UNLV Senior
DH/Utility Garrett Custons Air Force Senior
Pitcher Braden Shipley Nevada Junior
Pitcher Buddy Borden UNLV Junior
Pitcher Ryan Doran San Diego St. Senior
Pitcher Sam Wolff New Mexico Senior
Relief pitcher Gabe Aguilar New Mexico Senior

All-Mountain West Second Team

Catcher Jake Romanski San Diego St. Senior
First base Ryan Muno San Diego St. Sophomore
Second base Sam Haggerty New Mexico Freshman
Third base T.J. White UNLV Sophomore
Shortstop Chris Mariscal Fresno St. Sophomore
Outfielder David Baska Air Force Senior
Outfielder Luke Campbell New Mexico Senior
Outfielder Brooks Klein Nevada Senior
DH/Utility Alex Real New Mexico Sophomore
DH/Utility Mark Shannon San Diego St. Senior
Pitcher Blake Quinn Fresno St. Freshman
Pitcher Michael Cederoth San Diego St. Sophomore
Relief pitcher Bubba Derby San Diego St. Freshman

Co-Players of the Year: Mitch Garver, New Mexico; DJ Peterson, New Mexico
Co-Pitchers of the Year: Braden Shipley, Nevada; Buddy Borden, UNLV
Co-Freshmen of the Year: Sam Haggerty, New Mexico; Blake Quinn, Fresno St.
Coach of the Year: Ray Birmingham, New Mexico