May 2, 2009
Saturday: Lobos 6, Colorado State 4
Up Next: Lobos at BYU (May 7); At Utah (May 8-9)
Online: GameTracker, recaps on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
She held her bundle of roses soft and gentle the way a first-time mother might cradle her newborn. A few minutes earlier senior Analise Rubalcava clutched a bat and swung it like a lumberjack attacking a tree.
The victim of Rubalcava's not-so-soft swing was a pitch thrown by Colorado State's Kelli Eubanks. The ball snapped off Rubalcava's bat and soared high into an evening sky washed with sunrays and weakened rain clouds.
There was nothing weak about this hit. The ball disappeared over the left-center wall and Rubalcava disappeared into the joy of a walk-off, two-run homer in her final at-bat at Lobo field.
On Senior Day, it was perfect ending for a senior.
"I'm in a different place right now," Rubalcava said after New Mexico's dramatic, never-say-die 6-4 Mountain West Conference win over the CSU Rams Saturday at Lobo Field. "The ending was perfect for me.
"I came out like it was another day at the ballpark and that's how I felt until I hit that ball and rounded second and saw coach and all my teammates over there cheering. I teared up just from the joy of seeing them."
There was a lot of joy coming back Rubalcava's way, too. The Lobos had dodged a bullet when CSU scored the apparent go-ahead run in the top of the seventh. But the run was washed off the board when the home-plate ump decided the CSU runner left third base early on a tag.
UNM's leadoff hitter, Cristin Anderson, opened the bottom of the seventh by neatly dropping a bunt between the CSU pitcher and the catcher and Anderson didn't even have a throw to beat in her dash down to first.
"If there is nobody on, I give them the green light, if they see something," said Lobo coach Ty Singleton. "She saw something and that was her decision to bunt. It was a great decision and a great bunt."
Then it was Rubalcava's turn. She turned on a pitch on the outside corner, killed it, and disappeared into her final jog of joy at Lobo Field. On deck, the Lobos' other senior, Samantha Hughes, dropped her bat almost the instant the ball left the stick of her roommate.
"I was so excited for Analise. She deserves something like this," said Hughes. "She has done so much for the team this year. When she hit it, I just dropped my bat. I knew it was gone."
The emotional ending to the game added to the emotional ending for Hughes and Rubalcava. The two seniors were surrounded by family and friends and swamped by hugs and kisses and pretty flowers.
It's been a great season for Hughes and Rubalcava, too. They are No. 1 and No. 1 respectively in batting average. Hughes is a strong candidate for MWC First-Team honors. Rubalcava, an infielder for three seasons, became UNM's pitching ace after Singleton's pitching staff was decimated by the loss of three young hurlers, who didn't return for the 2009 season.
The win upped UNM's record to 12-33 and 3-9 in MWC play. CSU fell to 24-23 and 5-6 in league. The Lobos end their season on the road at Brigham Young (May 7) and at Utah (May 8-9).
"It was a fun way for the seniors to go out," said Singleton. "It's been a tough year and they had a fun day and we all had a fun day. Analise came in relief, got out of the inning, and then steps up and hits a walk-off."
The Lobos led the game 3-1 after three innings, but CSU clawed back ahead 4-3 with a three-run fifth. UNM tied the game 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth. Shaunte Duarte doubled and Andria Martinez came in to pinch run. Martinez scored on a single by Jessica Garcia.
The Lobos got a single run in the first on a home run by Anderson, who went 2-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored. UNM got another dinger in the bottom of the second, a solo shot by Tianna George.
Rubalcava got the third Lobo run in the third after reaching base on a single and getting knocked in on a single by Duarte.
The Lobos had multi-hit games from Anderson, Rubalcava and Duarte. UNM also got hits from Garcia, George and Kerry Hodgins. Of course, the big blow was the one by Rubalcava.
"I have no idea what I hit," said the 5-3 senior. "I swung and just kind of blacked out. I don't remember it at all.
"Today was a cherry on top, but this is really about the whole experience of being a Lobo. I can't thank my team or my coaches or Sammi (Hughes) enough for the experience they have given me over the past four years."
Rubalcava paused to look out over Lobo Field and noticed Hughes wiping tears from her face. It was a small shift for the two seniors. Rubalcava is known for being more emotional; Hughes is more of the toughie.
"It's weird seeing Sammi like this," said Rubalcava. "Usually, I'm the one who is all emotional."
Said Hughes: "I'm usually not that emotional at all. It's weird. This is my last game here after four years and it just kind of hit me. I don't know what to say."