Stevens: Lobos Open NCAA Play in Fullerton, Calif., Vs. Arizona State

May 27, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Baseball - 2013 NCAA College World Series -- Cal State Fullerton Regional

Where/Who: New Mexico vs. Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton vs. Columbia

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

In their first step toward Omaha and the College World Series, the New Mexico Lobos will go in the opposite direction and look for a piece of revenge against an Arizona State team that beat UNM by a single run earlier this season.

"We're as good as Arizona State," said Lobo Coach Ray Birmingham referring to UNM's first opponent in regional play at Cal State Fullerton. The Lobos lost to ASU 4-3 in 11 innings at Tempe, Ariz.

Fullerton is the No. 1 seed in their regional and will play Columbia. ASU was handed the No. 2 seed and will try to battle past No. 3 seed New Mexico, which earned an at-large bid Monday.

"Just the same as what they've played before," said UNM's DJ Peterson, evaluating ASU. "We've played them about seven times since I've been here. We are going to give it all we got."

The Lobos had a Selection Day Party at Doc & Eddy's Monday morning and the Lobos were late for their own party as their plane from Fresno, Calif., the site of the Mountain West Tournament, didn't touch down until around 9:40 a.m. The Selection Show began at 10 a.m., on ESPNU and the Lobos found out about their postseason journey while traveling.

In a way, that might have been the fitting way for UNM to find out they were going to Fullerton to play ASU. The Lobos have been on the road for almost three weeks and did look a little mentally fatigued in their 9-4 loss to San Diego State in the MW title game on Sunday.

Birmingham said his team was "tired," but got a shot of energy from the crowd that greeted the Mountain West regular-season champion at Doc & Eddy's. "Coming home to this rejuvenates us. It's a big, big deal," said Birmingham.

The SDSU Aztecs were sent to the UCLA regional and will have to play the No. 1 seed Bruins. That four-team grouping also includes San Diego vs. Cal Poly. The winner of the Fullerton regional plays the winner of the UCLA regional for the right to advance to Omaha.

"In order to get to Omaha, you have to play the best and beat the best," said Peterson. "We knew we were going to have to beat one of the 16 top teams in the nation."

Actually, the Lobos might have to beat two of the nation's top 16 teams in Fullerton - ASU and Cal State Fullerton. But ditto for ASU and Fullerton. The Lobos also are a top shelf NCAA team and this region is loaded. Fullerton has lost only eight games in 2013.

The top eight national seeds are North Carolina (52-8), Vanderbilt (51-9), Oregon State (45-10), LSU (52-9), Cal State Fullerton (48-8), Virginia (47-10), Florida State (44-15) and Oregon (45-14).

"I think we still have momentum," said Peterson, shaking off the two losses to SDSU. "We got the two hiccups out of the way and we're ready for the regional.

"We thought we had that (MW tourney) easy and we underestimated San Diego State and they took two right from under our feet. Half of it is our fault, but they played well and they outplayed us, so we'll give them credit."

The Lobos are heading into postseason play for the third consecutive year with a Mountain West title and Lobo Mitch Garver said that playoff experience should help UNM in the Fullerton regional.

"It's not our first time," he said. "We have experience and a lot of upperclassmen. We know what to expect and how the intensity is going to feel. It's just a matter of playing our game and staying hot."

Each of the 16 regionals features four teams, playing a double-elimination format. The regionals are scheduled to be conducted May 31-June 3 (if necessary). Selection of the eight super regional hosts will be announced at 11 p.m. ET June 3.

The 67th Men's College World Series begins June 15 at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Neb.