A Second Look: McClain to the Rescue

July 12, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – On Wednesday GoLobos.com looked at Austin House's scoreless innings streak to end the 2012 season. That streak would not have been possible, however, without the work of junior Hobie McClain.

The Lobos’ last win of 2012 was one of their most impressive and hard-fought of the season: a 4-0 victory over the hard-hitting, 40-win University of San Diego Toreros in the NCAA regionals at UCLA in which House hurled seven shutout innings.

UNM was held without a hit for the first three innings before striking for two runs in the fourth. DJ Peterson led off with a single up the middle, and advanced to second on a groundout by Ryan Padilla. Josh Melendez then knocked him home with a double to left center to open the scoring.

Melendez advanced to third on an infield single by Trey Porras before Kyle Stiner put down a perfect safety squeeze bunt. That allowed Melendez to score and make the lead 2-0. That remained the score as House held San Diego in check through the first seven innings.

Things changed in the eighth, though, as House tired.

The first two batters for San Diego reached base and brought Kris Bryant, who was already 3-for-3 in the game, to the plate as the potential go-ahead run. Bryant was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award and would be named a first team All-American by Baseball America after the season. He led the Toreros with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs and was second on the team with a .366 batting average.

UNM head coach Ray Birmingham knew it was time to make a call to the bullpen and he brought in McClain.

McClain’s first pitch, however, just made the situation even more dire: it was wild and got past catcher Mitchell Garver as each runner moved up a base. It took away any chance of a double play and meant a base hit would now tie the game.

But McClain was unfazed. He settled down and worked the count to 2-2 against the fearsome Torero third baseman. His next pitch was a fastball at the letters. Bryant took a mighty hack, but he came up empty and struck out for the first out.

The next batter, Connor Joe, swung at the first pitch he saw and hit it sharply on the ground to the left side. Fortunately for the Lobos it was right at Peterson at third base. He fielded it, held both runners, and threw Joe out at first for the second out.

Andrew Daniel, the designated hitter who led the Toreros with 18 doubles and tied for the team lead with Bryant with 78 hits, was next. But McClain had his number as well. He struck him out on four pitches to end the threat and preserve the lead.

Neither McClain nor the Lobos were out of the woods just yet, however. Despite adding two runs in the top of the ninth to make the score 4-0, UNM had to withstand one more Torero rally.

A leadoff single and a four-pitch walk in the bottom of the ninth put the first two men on base once again. McClain then saw the count run full on the next batter. One more pitch out of the strike zone and the tying run would come to the plate.

But once again the junior bore down and got the result he needed: a groundball to third. Peterson fielded it and threw to Stiner at second for one out. Stiner then completed the double play by throwing out the runner at first. McClain ended the game and earned his third save of the year by getting pinch hitter AJ Robinson to fly out to Melendez in center.

It was a truly amazing and gutsy performance by McClain, but it was nothing new for the native of Roswell, N.M. He had been providing UNM with those types of outings all season as he led Lobo pitchers with a 1.80 ERA in a team-high 22 relief appearances. He allowed only six extra-base hits (all doubles) in 30 innings and held opponents to a .226 batting average. But his performance in the first game of the NCAA regionals proved the type of big game pitcher he is and helped secure the Lobos’ final victory in 2012. Look for even bigger things out of the right-hander in 2013.

Note: This summer McClain is pitching for the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League. As of July 11, he has made 12 appearances spanning 19 innings. He is 1-0 with two saves and 16 strikeouts and is holding opponents to a .200 batting average.