April 28, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Another weekend, another series win for the Lobos. Saturday night's 16-5 win over UNLV (20-23) guaranteed the Lobos (25-19) their school-record eighth consecutive weekend series win.
And like Friday's 11-4 win, UNM did most of its damage in one inning. A night after scoring eight in the seventh, the Lobos exploded for nine in the second inning to open an early 11-0 lead. Ten batters in a row reached base at one point in the inning, the first time the Lobos have had 10 consecutive men reach base in one inning since Mar. 7, 2009 against Binghamton, and the nine runs in one inning marks a season-high for the Lobos in 2012.
The Lobos scored two runs without the benefit of a hit in the first before their big second inning. Alex Real got things started in the second with a one-out walk. After Mitchell Garver flied out to center, Ben Woodchick singled to left to put runners on first and second. After reaching a 3-0 count on Lobo slugger DJ Peterson, UNLV decided to intentionally walk him to load the bases.
Ryan Padilla walked to force home a run and keep the bases loaded for Josh Melendez. Melendez doubled down the left field line to knock home Peterson and Woodchick and send Padilla to third. Trey Porras followed and singled up the middle to score both Padilla and Melendez and increase the lead to 7-0.
Alex Allbritton and Kyle Stiner both walked, loading the bases for Real’s second at bat of the inning. He came through in a big way, smashing a double all the way to the hill in center to clear the bases.
Real then advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on an infield single by Garver. Woodchick followed with a walk, and was the 10th Lobo in a row to reach base. Peterson looked like he would be the 11th straight batter to reach when he launched a laser to center field, but Mark Shannon managed to track it down and put an end to the damage.
“We had four hits and (nine) runs (in that inning),” Peterson said. “That’s pretty unheard of. I think we took advantage and they gave us some freebies is what it came down to.”
By the end of the inning not only had every Lobo reached base, but each starter had also scored a run.
The Rebels threatened to make a game out of it by scoring five runs over the next two innings, but UNM starter Josh Walker settled down after that and struck out seven in eight innings. Bobby Mares then came in and closed the game off in emphatic fashion, throwing only nine pitches and striking out two of the three batters he faced.
“If it’s me or Hobie (McClain) or Will (Mathis), we need to be able to close it out,” Mares said.
Birmingham was thrilled with his team’s effort, but was particularly happy with Mares’ performance in the ninth.
“The most exciting that I saw was the way that Bobby Mares closed the game,” he said. “That’s him. Pumping strikes, throwing 88 with a great change up … He just looked fantastic.”
The Lobos’ offensive effort, though, was simply fantastic. The team pounded out 14 hits and drew 10 walks. It was the first time the team walked 10 or more times in a game since Mar. 11, 2007. Garver and Woodchick led the team with three hits apiece, and Woodchick added four runs scored.
“Overall it was a great night hitting,” Woodchick said. “I felt like I was hitting well at the beginning of the year. I’ve never been through a really big slump this year, stuff is just starting to fall now. It feels good.”
Peterson went 2-4 to run his hitting streak to a career-best 19 games and launched his 11th homer of the season in the bottom of the 8th. He finished with four RBI.
The eight consecutive weekend series wins is a new school record, extending the one the Lobos set last weekend versus Florida Gulf Coast. The win also means UNM will be no worse than tied for first place in the Mountain West with TCU when the team travels to face the Horned Frogs next weekend.
But first the Lobos are interested in finishing off a sweep of the Rebels.
“We got to have it,” Birmingham said. “I feel good about it. Gera (Sanchez) will be on the mound. I feel good about it. I feel good about this team. This is a great team and we’re probably one of the hottest teams in baseball right now. I’m proud of them.”
Sanchez, who is currently leading the nation in strikeouts per nine innings, will make his fourth start of the season Sunday. First pitch will be at 1 p.m. (MT) and fans can listen to the game live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team.