March 31, 2009
What: Lobos vs. Texas Tech
Tuesday: Texas Tech 8, Lobos 4
Up Next: Lobos vs. Tech, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Isotopes Park
Radio: 1150-AM KDEF
Online: GameTracker, live streaming on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
"Now, coming to bat for the Texas Tech Red Raiders is No. 7, Mickey Mantle. " No, not really, but Tuesday night at Isotopes Park Lobo coach Ray Birmingham was beginning to wonder about what monster at the plate his Lobo hurlers were envisioning.
"I didn't see anybody on the other team that had a No. 7 on his back and looked like Mickey Mantle," said Birmingham. "But they (UNM pitchers) pitched like Mickey Mantle was batting."
The Red Raiders worked four University of New Mexico pitchers for eight runs in Tech's 8-4 win over the No. 18-ranked Lobo. The Raiders got three runs in the first, two in the third and one run in the fourth, sixth and eighth. The fifth UNM pitcher, Will Kerr, pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless ball.
UNM actually out hit Tech 14 to 10 and committed a single error to three by the visitors from Lubbock, Texas. But UNM had five walks in the first five innings and the four Red Raider pitchers didn't walk a Lobo.
Birmingham doesn't mind so much his Lobos not walking. They are the top hitting team in college ball because they swing the lumber. But Birmingham doesn't like giving up free passes to first base.
"My philosophy is throw some stinking strikes," said the UNM coach. "My seven guys behind (the pitcher) can't catch the ball, if you don't throw the ball over the plate and they don't hit it. Make them hit the ball.
"My philosophy also is go at people. Go at people no matter what you got. Make them beat you. I told coach Tidwell (pitching coach Chad Tidwell), `you want me to talk to them (pitchers) or you want to talk to them?' I told him if I talk to them, you might have nine guys crying
"I was ticked."
The loss dropped UNM to 24-5 on the season while Tech bumps up to 12-17. The teams play again at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Isotopes Park. In a way, the ending to Tuesday's game was a compliment to this year's Lobos. The Raiders' post-game celebration was much more than what you used to see when Tech beat UNM on the diamond.
"We understand that now that we are ranked, there is a big target on our backs," said UNM's Ryan Honeycutt, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs vs. Tech. "The atmosphere has changed. Now, if people beat us, it's a high point for them. They coming gunning for us and beating us is an accomplishment because we are Top 25."
What the Lobos have to realize is that a win over UNM now looks good on a team's NCAA at-large resume.
"A year ago, (Chad) Bettis doesn't throw the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth," said Birmingham. "He's one of the top three pitchers in the Big 12. Now, because of who we are, we get him."
Bettis came in on a relief mission with two out in the sixth and went the rest of the way. He gave up an earned run to UNM in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out five Lobos against no walks.
The Lobos scored a single run in the first, third, sixth and ninth, but never put together enough hits to form a multi-run inning.
"It felt like our energy was down and we were timid and passive at the plate and on the mound," said Honeycutt. "We have to be more aggressive.
"Maybe we are feeling the grind a bit, but give them credit, they played a great game. We just can't throw our gloves out there and expect to win. We have to come to play. They definitely came to play and that's why they won. We kind of eased into this game."
Tech took control of the game early with a three-run first formed off three hits and a walk. UNM came back in the bottom of that inning to make it 3-1 when Honeycutt singled in Max Willett, who reached on a single.
"I didn't see anybody on the other team that had a No. 7 on his back and looked like Mickey Mantle."
Lobo Coach Ray Birmingham on tentative UNM pitching vs. Texas Tech
The Raiders were up 8-3 when UNM formed the 8-4 final in the bottom of the ninth. Willett opened the frame with a single and scored on a single by Kevin Atkinson.
Willett ended the day going 2-for-5 with three runs scored. Dane Hamilton went 3-for-5. Brownstein and Atkinson each went 2-for-5. UNM's Edwin Carl picked up the loss giving up five runs and three walks in 2.2 innings of work.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.