May 13, 2012
Las Vegas, Nev. --- Sitting on a precarious 6-5 lead, Ray Birmingham's Lobos exploded for five runs in the ninth inning with two out, and that proved the difference as New Mexico defeated UNLV 11-7 in the rubber game of a three-game series, pushing UNM to 29-22 overall and 15-6 in the Mountain West, one game behind first place TCU with three games left in the conference title chase.
"We left 16 men on base and still won, which was fortunate," said head coach Ray Birmingham. "Gera, Josh and Austin weren't particularly sharp, but Hobie, Rudy, Sam and Bobby picked up the slack. The MW Championship will go down to the wire."
New Mexico pounded four UNLV pitchers for 16 hits as everyone in the starting lineup got at least one. UNM scored 9 of its 11 runs with two outs.
UNM never trailed in the contest, but the Rebels chipped away at a 6-2 Lobo lead, cutting it to 6-5 after a seventh inning sacrifice fly. That score held to the ninth, and it looked like it would stay that way with two outs and Erik Suarez and Mitch Garver at the corners after singles. UNLV however couldn't get that 27th out.
After D.J. Peterson walked to load the bases, Ryan Padilla ripped a single to center, scoring Suarez and Garver. After a pitching change, Josh Melendez, Troy Porras and Kyle Stiner all delivered run scoring singles to give the Lobos a healthy 11-5 advantage.
Those five runs loomed large after Erik VanMeetren slammed a two-run home run off of Sam Wolff to make it 11-7. Hobie McClain then came in for Wolff and struck out the final two hitters after allowing a scratch single.
All the run support made a winner of Gera Sanchez, who entered the game with a 1.77 era. He improved to 7-2 on the season after going seven innings, allowing six hits and five earned runs, throwing 105 pitches. The five earned runs allowed by Sanchez were the most he has allowed this year, and his ERA jumped a bit to a still stellar 2.29.
UNM got off to a great start in the second inning, plating four in the frame, all of those with two outs as well. With Porras on first and two down, Erik Suarez walked and Michael Baca poked a single through the right side, scoring Porras. Garver, who is on a torrid stretch, doubled home a run to make it 2-0 Lobos. After a walk, Peterson drove in two runs with a single to make it 4-0.
Garver went 7-for-15 in the series with eight runs scored and 5 RBI. He picked up 14 total bases in the series. He was added to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List on May 7.
UNLV got on the board in the third with a pair of runs as Trent Cook singled in two runs to cut UNM's lead to 4-2.
In the fourth UNM made it 6-2 with a pair of runs. Ben Woodchick and Garver singled to start the game, and then moved up 90-feet after a ground out. Melendez then singled home Woodchick, and Porras singled home Garver.
Vegas whittled the lead down to 6-4 with a Joey Swanner two run single in the fourth a sacrifice fly in the seventh, leading up to UNM's big ninth inning.
NOTES: The win all but assures UNM of a winning season, which would be the 21st in the last 22 seasons for head coach Ray Birmingham ... Birmingham's overall record, counting his stints at College of the Southwest and New Mexico Junior College, now stands at 976-458-2, a .680 winning percentage ... Garver had his 30th multi-hit game of the season ... UNM has won eight of its last nine weekend series' ... After committing 10 errors in the first two games, UNM was perfect in the field on Sunday ... UNM hosts New Mexico State on Tuesday night at Isotopes Park.