April 20, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team battled back from an early 3-0 deficit to defeat the visiting Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles Friday afternoon in front of 1,347 fans at Isotopes Park.
Trailing 3-0 entering the bottom of the third and facing the Eagles’ ace Ricky Knapp, who entered the game with a 1.85 ERA and two shutouts on the season, the Lobos scored once in the third and four in the fourth to capture their fifth win in their past six games.
“The lack of energy (at the start) bothered me,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. “It’s a year of transition but they’re playing well despite of it. We didn’t play our best today but we won anyway.”
UNM starter Austin House allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings to win his third-straight start. He struck out five and threw 64 of his 96 pitches for strikes. The Eagles scored all their runs in the third inning, but aside from that House kept them off-balance and, for the most part, off the bases.
“I struggled a little bit in that inning,” House said. “But other than that I was just competing in the zone and that’s all that matters.”
He was helped by some fantastic defense behind him. The Lobos turned three double plays in the field, Alex Allbritton tied a career-high with eight assists from his position at shortstop, and first baseman Trey Porras made several nice plays at first.
The Lobos began their comeback in the bottom of the third. With one out Mitchell Garver continued his hot play of late with his Mountain West-leading 17th double down the left field line. A single to right by Ben Woodchick sent him to third, and DJ Peterson drove him home with a sacrifice fly to right.
In the fourth UNM sent 10 men to the plate and smashed six hits to score four runs and take the lead. Alex Real started the inning with a two-strike single to left. One batter later Alex Allbritton laid down a perfect bunt single to put men on first and second.
Kyle Stiner then lashed a single to right to drive home Real and send Allbritton to third. A passed ball by FGCU’s catcher, Mike Reeves, allowed Allbritton to score and tie the game at three and send Stiner to second.
Stiner then advanced to third on a deep lineout by Chris Nunez. Garver knocked him home with a single up the middle to give the Lobos the lead. A single to right by Woodchick sent Garver to third. Peterson then recorded his second RBI of the game as Garver scored on his single to left, which was the team’s third-straight two-out hit.
The Lobos added their final run in the eighth when Woodchick’s two-out double down the right field line knocked home Stiner, who had reached on a single.
Woodchick led the Lobos offensively with three hits to raise his season average to .301. Garver went 2-5 with two runs and one RBI. Stiner finished 2-4 and also had two runs and one RBI.
“I’ve lined out a lot, and coach is always giving me a hard time about it,” Woodchick said. “But they’re starting to fall.”
“It was a great job by Woodchick,” Birmingham said. “He did a good job swinging the bat and doing things the right way. I thought Garver did too.”
Will Mathis and Hobie McClain each pitched a scoreless inning of relief, with McClain earning his second save of the season.
The win for the Lobos followed a two-game sweep at Texas Tech and a 2-1 series win at San Diego State last weekend. It was also the 20th win of the season for the Lobos, which matches their win total from last season when they made the NCAA tournament as Mountain West tournament champions.
“We started off the season slow, but we’re hot right now,” Woodchick said. “We’re real hot.
“Right now we’re playing as well as we can. We’ve won six-consecutive weekend series in a row. We’re starting to click and hopefully we can make it seven this weekend.”
A win by the Lobos on Saturday will give the Lobos a school-record seventh weekend series victory in a row. Sophomore and Rio Rancho-native Josh Walker will take the mound for UNM. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. (MT) and fans can listen to the game live on ESPN 101.7 The Team.
“We’re rolling right now,” House said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”