ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Colton Thomson struck out a career-high 11 and the Lobos used a pair of four-run innings to defeat the visiting Jacksonville State Gamecocks 8-2 on a windy Saturday afternoon at Lobo Field.
Thomson (3-4) struck out eight through the first four innings, including a stretch of seven of nine batters at one point. In 6.2 innings on the day he allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits and did not walk a batter as he threw 76 of his 109 pitches for strikes.On a day when the wind gusts were reaching 30 mph and higher, he became the first Lobo pitcher to strike out 10 or more in a game since Gera Sanchez on April 22, 2012.
“The wind is something new, coming from a calm state,” the Arizona native said, “but I’ve learned to keep the ball down and live low, because if you keep the ball up they’re going to tag it.”
The man with the best view of Thomson’s gem, catcher Alex Real, was effusive in his praise of his starter’s work.
“Colton did a great job at keeping the ball down,” he said. “His slider was working well. We had that trust going on where we knew if he reached two strikes then he was going to bury one in the dirt and it worked well for him today. His curveball was working really well too. It had some depth to it.”
The Lobos (22-10-1) used a well-rounded offense to back their starter. Nine batters recorded one hit and six had at least one RBI.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Lobos so far in this series has been the way they've answered the Gamecocks. Aside from the ninth inning Friday night when they had the win locked up, every time JSU (18-12) has scored this series, the Lobos have answered in the bottom of the inning.
That trend continued Saturday. After the Gamecocks got on the board with a run in the top of the second, UNM answered with its first four-spot of the game in the home half of the frame.
John Pustay got the rally started with a walk and Alex Real followed with an opposite-field double to right to put two men in scoring position. After a strikeout, Jered Meek tied the game with an RBI groundout, Jared Holley gave UNM the lead with a two-out single.
Aaron Siple followed with a single that sent Holley to third. A steal and a walk loaded the bases for Sam Haggerty, who came through with a two-run single to left.
With a three-run cushion, Thomson started dealing. He struck out seven over the next four innings and only allowed a single and a wind-aided double. Both Thomson and Real gave a lot of credit to pitching coach Dan Spencer for his work calling pitches throughout the day.
“Coach Spencer worked with the wind really well,” Thomson said. “We got ahead with the fastball, and then we threw our junk. That’s what got outs. We had the hitters off balance all day.”
He ran into a bit of trouble in the seventh as JSU had men on first and second with two outs, but he appeared to get out of the jam by inducing a grounder to short. The ball went right through Holley’s legs, though, which allowed a run to score and end Thomson’s day.
Victor Sanchez came in, though, and got the final out to end the threat.
As they’ve been doing lately, the Lobos answered. And, as usual, it was their star right fielder who led the way as Harris led off the bottom of the inning with a home run over the right-field wall, his fourth of the season. Two batters later Ryan Padilla followed with a home run to almost the same spot for his first of the year.
Andre Vigil followed with a hard grounder up the middle that he turned into a double with his hustle. Holley walked and Aaron Siple was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Danny Collier.
The speedy freshman grounded one to the hole at first that JSU's first baseman back-handed. Collier, though, beat both the first baseman and the pitcher to the bag for an infield hit. Vigil scored with ease, and Holley, who was hustling the whole way, also scored before the Gamecocks could react.
Sanchez then closed the door in the ninth for his third save. Thomson and Sanchez limited the Gamecocks to six hits with no walks an 12 strikeouts.
Collier and Holley each reached base three times, and Holley was the only Lobo to score multiple runs. Collier and Harris led the team with two RBIs.
UNM will look for the sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. and will have Josh Walker on the mound. The senior will be looking for career win No. 24 to move into a second-place tie on UNM's all-time wins list. Fans can watch a live stream of the game at GoLobos.com or listen to the game on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM.
Notes: Sanchez tied Jake Cole, who closed out Friday's win, for the team lead with three saves ... Harris entered the day third in the nation with 37 RBIs and first with 53 hits ... the only starter not to record a hit was Meek ... Siple's stolen base was his second of the season.