March 18, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Down 4-0 after one, and 6-0 after two, the UNM baseball team refused to quit. They used an eight-run sixth inning, the most runs they've scored in an inning this season, and seven and one-third shutout relief innings to finish a sweep of the San Diego State Aztecs with an 8-6 victory in front of 1,274 fans on an incredibly windy day at Isotopes Park.
After starter Rudy Jaramillo gave up six runs on nine hits in only one and two-thirds innings, things looked bleak for the Lobos. But, Alexis Garza came in and only allowed three hits over the next five and one-third innings to earn his first win of the season. He struck out five and walked just one. Gera Sanchez pitched the final two innings to earn his second save of the series and third of the season.
"I felt good," Garza said. "I just went out there and did what I've been taught to do."
On a day when the wind was gusting up to 60 miles per hour, and hats were being blown off of players' heads on the field, Garza said he managed to block it out and just pitch.
"I wasn't thinking about the wind too much," he said. "As far as me on the mound, it didn't mess me up at all."
"It was pretty brutal the first couple innings," DJ Peterson said of the wind, "But, as the game went along, it got better."
The Lobo bats got better as the game went along as well. After managing only one hit in their first seven chances with runners in scoring position, they had six straight in their eight-run sixth, and they all came with two outs.
Erik Suarez got the big inning started with a one-out single up the middle. After Alex Real struck out for the second out of the inning, Alex Allbritton singled to center, sending Suarez to second. Ben Woodchick then sent a ball deep to left that Aztecs left fielder had trouble following because of the wind. The ball landed on the warning track, and Woodchick ended up on second with a two-RBI double.
An infield single by Kyle Stiner brought DJ Peterson up to the plate, who lashed an opposite-field double to right to score both Woodchick and Stiner. An infield single by Josh Melendez sent Peterson to third and accounted for the fifth-straight hit by the Lobos. Ryan Padilla singled to right on an 0-1 pitch to score Peterson and chase Aztec starter Ryan Doran. That brought up Mitchell Garver to face reliever Justin Hepner.
Garver patiently worked the count to 3-1 before launching a home run deep into the Lobo bullpen in left-center. The three-run bomb, Garver's second home run of the series, gave the Lobos their first lead of the game and provided Garza and Sanchez all the support they'd need.
"We had some great at-bats," UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. "Everybody tried to do what they were supposed to do and battled."
The big inning would have been all for naught, though, without the work of Garza.
"I think he just came in, did his job, and did what he had to do regardless of what the score was," Peterson said. "Garza did a great job today."
Birmingham agreed with his star first baseman.
"Sometimes you establish a kid in a spot that helps the team," he said. "And he always wanted to be a starter, but he does great when he comes into these situations. So he's a long relief guy that's a very good one and did a great job today. If it weren't for him we don't win the ballgame."
The rest of the game wasn't without drama, though. San Diego State threatened again in the top of the seventh. With a runner on first and two outs, Garza hit two straight Aztecs to load the bases. Garza then reached a 3-1 count on San Diego State's number-nine hitter, Steven Pallares.
Pallares drove the next pitch deep into center, but Melendez raced under it and made a fine catch as the wind whipped around him.
Peterson finished the series 9-12 with three walks, two home runs, two doubles, seven RBIs, and six runs scored.
"I just have a lot of support," Peterson said. "I think everyone had a big series. Josh Melendez is still hitting good. Garver had two bombs this series. He played very well.
"I think everyone played really well this weekend. I don't think it's just me. I think we're all coming together as a team."
The sweep was the Lobos' second-consecutive series sweep after they defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs in three-straight games last weekend at Isotopes Park. The Lobos face the Mountain West preseason favorite TCU Horned Frogs in a three-game series starting this Friday at Isotopes Park.
"Now that we got this (sweep) out of the way, we can prepare for TCU," Garza said. "I think we'll be alright. We've been stepping it up. Our team chemistry is really good. I think we'll be alright, but we'll see what happens."
"They're a very good ball club," Birmingham said of the Horned Frogs. "They've always been a good ball club. They have some of the best players from Texas.
"They've got some new pitchers now and they're good. They'll always be TCU and I love playing them. When they get out of the conference I'll miss them because they make you better."