April 14, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In the final day of a wild series against Fresno State, the University of New Mexico baseball team experienced one of its most bizarre finishes of the season.
In the end, the Lobos (20-16, 11-4) walked off with a 4-3 victory over the Bulldogs (8-23, 3-10) after back-to-back wild pitches allowed Jared Holley to score the winning run on a windy day at Lobo Field. The second wild pitch came as the Bulldog pitcher, Tim Borst, was actually trying to intentionally walk DJ Peterson.
“I haven’t seen very many (games end that way),” Josh Walker said echoing the statements of his teammates and head coach. “I think that was the first time to tell you the truth.”
The crazy ending began in the top of the eighth with the score tied at one.
A line drive down the line in right by the Bulldog’s first batter of the inning, catcher Austin Wynns, eluded Chase Harris and went for a triple. A little flare into no-man’s land between Walker, Sam Haggerty and Peterson in the infield went for an infield single and gave Fresno St. its first lead of the game.
The bottom of the inning started just the same way: with a leadoff triple. Haggerty smoked a pitch over the bag at first and into the right-field corner. He hustled to third as the tying run. Then Fresno St. decided to pitch to Peterson.
It was a mistake.
With the infield pulled in, the All-American blooped a ball down the line in left. It fell between three Bulldog defenders for a double as Haggerty scored to tie the game. Mitch Garver then singled to left, which moved Peterson to third.
John Pustay drove Peterson home with a grounder to short as Garver was forced out at second. The Lobos led 3-2 going to the ninth.
With one out Walker walked the Bulldog’s preseason All-American, Aaron Judge. With two outs Judge remained at first with Wynns at the plate. He blooped a ball to center that landed and took a high hop off the turf just in front of center fielder Josh Melendez.
The high arc of the ball plus the hard bounce allowed Judge to score all the way from first to tie the game. Melendez’s throw home appeared to beat Judge, but a hard feet-first slide by the 6’7 center fielder jarred the ball loose from Garver’s grasp.
Then came the bottom of the ninth.
Holley led off with a grounder to short that was mishandled for an error. A sacrifice bunt by Harris moved the freshman to second. Haggerty then worked a full-count walk to put two men on for Peterson.
If the final two innings hadn’t been crazy already, things took an almost surreal turn after that. With a 1-0 count on Peterson a huge gust of wind carried a massive cloud of dust through the field and play was halted until the wind calmed.
The gust apparently rattled Borst, though. His next pitch was in the dirt and went through Wynn’s legs behind the plate, which allowed both men to move up. With a base open and still only one out, the Bulldogs decided to intentionally walk Peterson to set up a force at any base.
Borst’s next pitch, though, was several feet over Wynn’s head as he stood in anticipation of the intentional walk. Holley scampered home and slid in ahead of the throw to give UNM its first series sweep of the season.
“We needed (the sweep) to stay in first place,” Haggerty said. “The sweep was big and I think everyone knew it. We played hard. We got knocked down in the top of the ninth when we gave up the lead, but we came right back in the bottom of the inning to take the win and the sweep.”
The game was fitting in a year in which almost nothing has come easy for the Lobos.
“This game was the summary of our season,” Walker said. “We were just fighting through the whole thing until the end. We got an early lead, we gave it up, but we still came back, fighting hard the whole time.”
UNM opened the scoring on Melendez’s first home run of the season leading off the second. It extended the senior’s hitting streak to a career-best 15 games.
Fresno St. tied the game in the fourth when Lobo starter A.J. Carman walked two men with two outs and allowed an RBI single to the Bulldog’s number eight hitter Brody Russell.
Carman ran into trouble in the fifth, though. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with two outs so the Lobos went to their closer, Josh Walker.
Walker escaped the jam when Sam Haggerty made a nice diving stop on a groundball and threw the runner out at first.
Haggerty helped Walker escape another jam in the seventh. A two-out double and intentional walk put two men on, but the freshman made another nice play on a tough hop at second, spun, and threw the runner out at first to keep the score tied at one.
“I’ve been working really hard (on my defense),” he said. “I struggled a little bit early in the season, but there you just kind of have to make an athletic move: catch it, throw it, and get it over there any way you can.”
Walker went the final 4 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out one as he improved his record to 3-0.
“It wasn’t my best stuff today, but I worked with it,” he said. “I just managed with what I had and tried to throw as many strikes as I could to make the hitters get themselves out.”
Haggerty was the only Lobo with a multi-hit game as he finished 2-for-4 with a run. Peterson was 1-for-2 with a double, RBI, run, intentional walk, and a HBP.
With the win the Lobos retained sole possession of first place in the Mountain West after San Diego St. defeated Air Force 11-0 to remain one game back. Halfway through the conference season UNM has won every MW series: three at home and two on the road.
UNM is off until Wednesday when the Lobos host Rio Grande Rival New Mexico St. at 3:05 p.m. at Lobo Field.
Notes: The crowd of 790 was the largest to date at Lobo Field this season … Haggerty’s triple was his fourth of the season, which ties Melendez and Garver for the lead in the MW … Peterson’s double was his MW-leading 15th of the season … Haggerty finished with seven assists in the field.