May 26, 2012
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Trailing the TCU Horned Frogs 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning in the Mountain West Tournament Friday night, the lights went out on the University of New Mexico baseball team.
But not in the way you might think.
The lights at Earl E. Wilson literally went out with Kyle Stiner at the plate facing the Horned Frogs’ ace, Preston Morrison, causing a 17-minute delay. When play resumed the Lobos appeared to have new life and banged out three straight hits to tie the game. They never looked back en route to a 5-2 victory and a berth in the tournament’s championship game Saturday night.
The Lobos (35-22) fell behind 2-0 early to TCU (36-18) but scored one run in five straight innings to secure the victory. Starter Gera Sanchez got his eighth win for the Lobos as he went six and one-third innings, striking out six and allowing two runs on six hits.
The Horned Frogs opened the scoring in the top of the second as Brett Johnson scored from third on a balk. TCU added another run in the top of the third off a solo home run by catcher Josh Elander.
The Lobos cut the lead in half in the fourth. Back-to-back singles by Ben Woodchick and DJ Peterson got things started. A flyout to right by Ryan Padilla sent Woodchick to third, and he ended up scoring on a sacrifice fly to right off the bat of Josh Melendez.
Then came the delay in the bottom of the fifth. Down 0-1 in the count, Stiner lashed a pitch foul down the left field line. Just as the ball landed the lights went out, and it appeared to rattle Morrison. The Mountain West Pitcher and Freshman of the Year came into the game undefeated, but he wasn’t the same after the delay.
Stiner doubled to center two pitches after play resumed. Alex Real and Alex Allbritton both singled to center as well, with Allbritton’s poke knocking home Stiner.
In the bottom of the sixth the Lobos took their first lead of the game. With one out Melendez reached on an error. He then proceeded to swipe second for his Mountain West-leading 22nd steal of the year. Trey Porras then singled through the hole between first and second and Melendez raced all the way home and slid in just ahead of the throw to give UNM a 3-2 lead.
TCU threatened to tie the game in the seventh, but the Lobo pitching staff ensured that didn’t happen. A leadoff walk and a stolen base put a runner at second with nobody out. But Sanchez and two relievers, Rudy Jaramillo and Bobby Mares, all struck out a batter to leave him there and preserve the lead.
Mares was simply fantastic after coming on in the seventh. He finished the game allowing only one base runner while striking out six to earn his fifth save of the year.
The Lobos then added their fourth run in the bottom half of the seventh. Allbritton led off the inning with a double down the right field line. He advanced to third on a single to right by Mitchell Garver. Woodchick then bounced a ball over the head of Johnson at first to score Allbritton and give the Lobos a 4-2 lead.
The fifth run for UNM came in the eighth and it was Melendez getting things started for the Lobos once again.
The starting center fielder for the Lobos, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Friday, singled up the middle for his second hit of the game and fifth of the tournament. He advanced to second on a balk and scored off another RBI single by Porras.
The Lobos pounded out 13 hits against the vaunted TCU pitching staff. It was the fourth time in seven games this season the Lobos pounded out at least 10 hits against the Horned Frogs. Not surprisingly, the Lobos are 4-0 in those games.
Melendez, Woodchick, Peterson, and Porras all recorded two hits to lead UNM.
The Lobos have now won six consecutive games in the MW Tournament. They swept through the tournament last year, winning four games in four days, to win their first-ever Tournament Championship.
“We just have to stay focused and get ready for tomorrow,” Mares said.
UNM is now one win away from an unprecedented third straight trip to the NCAA regionals. The Lobos will play at 8 p.m. (MT) on Saturday and will face the winner of the TCU-San Diego State matchup that will take place at 4 p.m. (MT) earlier that day. Both games can be viewed on The Mtn. and will be simulcast on CBS SportsNetwork. Fans can also listen to the Lobo game on ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team.
Game notes: The appearance by Jaramillo was the 63rd of his career, moving him into sole-possession of fifth place on UNM’s all-time list … the Lobos have won a season-high eight straight games … Sanchez’s eight wins leads the team … sophomore and Rio Rancho-native Josh Walker will get the start for the Lobos Saturday night.