March 10, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - On Friday the University of New Mexico baseball team proved they could beat one of the best pitching staffs in the country using a high-powered offense. On Saturday afternoon they proved they could hold one of the country's best offenses in check and still come out on top despite a less than stellar offensive performance.
In true walk-off fashion, the Lobos defeated the 22nd-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, 2-1, in 10 innings Saturday afternoon at Isotopes Park in front of 1,303 fans. Freshman and Albuquerque-native Ryan Padilla drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth, and Ben Woodchick scored the winning run when Kyle Stiner drew a one-out, bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th.
UNM starter Austin House was electric in his nine-inning performance, the longest of his career. He finished the game with a season-high seven strikeouts, giving up just one run, which was unearned, while allowing nine hits and only one walk. The big right-hander was very efficient, throwing 94 of his 123 pitches for strikes, and threw a first-pitch strike to 28 out of the 40 batters he faced.
"I'm a little amazed right now," he said. "All it is is competing, simple as that."
"Austin did a great job," UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. "That's what has to happen to win.
"Every pitch you throw in a ballgame is important and has a purpose, and we've been taking pitches off. But he didn't take a pitch off today."
The Bulldogs lone run came with two outs in the first. Steven Holcomb was on first when Royce Bollinger laced a single to right. Holcomb came around to score when Lobo right fielder Padilla bobbled the ball momentarily.
In the third House was masterful in wiggling out of trouble. Gonzaga had runners on first and third with nobody out. Bulldog designated hitter Clayton Eslick tapped one just in front of the plate, which held Eric Lane, the runner at third, but advanced Holcomb to second. Bolinger then followed with a hard shot right at Stiner at third. Stiner fielded it cleanly and threw home to Lobos catcher Mitchell Garver who tagged out Lane. Alex Stanford then lined out to DJ Peterson at first, ending the threat.
"Every single day you just have to go out there and battle, compete, and get it done," House said.
The Bulldogs had one runner reach base in each of the first nine innings, but only managed two hits in 15 at bats with runners on.
The Lobos, meanwhile, did not have a runner reach second base until the seventh inning, as they were held in check by Gonzaga starter Andy Hunter.
That changed in the ninth, though. Stiner singled to center and then advanced to second when Garver walked. A wild pitch moved both runners up one base. Padilla then drove a ball deep to right field. Brock Slavin, who had just entered the game for Gonzaga as a defensive replacement, made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch. Stiner scored on the sacrifice fly, but the catch kept Garver from scoring.
Gera Sanchez (2-0), on for House in the 10th, was dominant once again, setting the Bulldogs down in order. Woodchick then led off the bottom half of the inning with a triple on a 3-1 pitch that rolled all the way up the hill in right-center field. It was the 31st consecutive game, dating to last season, that Woodchick has reached base.
John Pustay tapped out to the pitcher, holding Woodchick at third. Gonzaga then decided to intentionally walk both Peterson and Josh Melendez to get to Stiner, who had four RBI in the Lobos win Friday night.
Stiner took three -straight balls, then two-straight strikes, loading the count. Ball four, though, sailed well outside.
"Kyle's a baseball player with lots of experience and he knows how to play the game," Birmingham said. "I was real confident he would get the job done one way or another. He played it just like a good baseball player would."
"They're a good team," House said. "They compete. They're nationally ranked for a reason. They were undefeated up until this point for a reason, so winning these two gets the ball rolling. Hopefully tomorrow we can go out and get the sweep."
The Lobos, having already clinched their first series win of the season, will try to complete the sweep tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Isotopes Park. Senior Rudy Jaramillo will start for the Lobos.
"You can't hang your hat on (this win)," Birmingham said. "In my 34 years of coaching the teams that do well are the ones that stay hungry and keep working toward that golden apple at the end.
"We got a good baseball team and we just beat a really good baseball team that nobody else has been able to beat this year. And we beat them the right way, with pitching."