Lobos Leap Into MWC Action With Preseason Tourney
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/28/2006
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 28, 2006

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UP NEXT FOR THE LOBOS: New Mexico, 17-8 overall, heads to sunny San Diego for the first ever Mountain West Conference Preseason Tournament hosted by San Diego State University. The Lobos will play four of the six MWC teams, taking on San Diego State at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Air Force at 3 p.m. on Thursday, BYU at 11 a.m. on Friday and Utah at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

All seven league teams will play four games apiece over a five-day span at Tony Gwynn Field. The tournament kicks off with a pair of games on Wednesday followed by three contests each of the next four days.

With TCU joining the Mountain West Conference this season, the regular-season schedule has each of the seven teams playing a three-game series against the other six clubs (three home, three away) for a total of 18 league games. In order to provide more conference contests, the league has created the preseason event with each school playing four additional games against MWC opponents at one site. This will give each team a total of 22 league games during the 2006 season.

All of the tournament games will have CSTV's Gametracker available. Access to all the Lobo games are available on UNM's official athletic website, www.GoLobos.com. Links to all the games are provided on the MWC's official website, www.TheMWC.com.

UNM VS. THE MOUNTAIN WEST: The Lobos, members of the Mountain West Conference since its creation in the 1999-2000 season, have posted a 99-81 record in conference play.

Since the 2000 season, New Mexico has had its greatest success against Air Force. The Lobos have posted a 33-6 record, including the postseason MWC Tournament, winning 19 of the last 20 contests.Their second best series has been with Utah, going 25-16. However, the Utes have won four in a row.

The Lobos worst two series match-ups in the MWC era have been with San Diego State and BYU. The Aztecs hold a 28-12 record vs. UNM since the 2000 season and have won two straight. The Cougars have topped the Lobos 22 of the 39 times met since the MWC inception but New Mexico has won two in a row.

The two teams New Mexico isn't facing in the preseason tournament, UNLV and TCU, have also had success against the 21st-century Lobos. UNLV is 21-18, winning five consecutive games. TCU, embarking on its first season as a member of the conference, took on the Lobos in 2004, sweeping them in a three-game series.

SCOUTING THE COMPETITION: First in line to take on the Lobos is San Diego State. The Aztecs are 6-23, losing 13 straight. Justin Masterson, 2-4 with a 4.37 ERA, is slated to take the mound on Wednesday. Masterson, in 55.2 innings, has struck out 48 and walked just 15. His ERA is the second lowest on the team, which averages 7.29 earned runs per game, and his two wins ties for the team-high. Offensively, Paul Smyth and Tim O'Brien lead the Aztecs, who are hitting .270 compared to their opponents .318 avg. Smyth holds a team-high .349 average and leads the team in hits (38), doubles (8), triples (2) and RBI (21). O'Brien has a .310 average and leads the team in runs scored (18), home runs (4) and walks (15).

Air Force, who started the year 5-1, have lost 12 of its last 15, entering the tournament with a 8-13 record. Falcon ace Mitch Brown is expected to throw on Thursday against New Mexico. Brown is 2-5 with a 3.79 ERA. He has fanned 31 in 40.1 innings and hasn't allowed a home run yet. At the plate, Air Force (hitting just .236 as a team), is led by Josh Meents and Dusting Smith. Meents has a team-high .306 average and leads the team in home runs (4) and RBI (13). Smith, hitting .281, leads the team in hits (18), doubles (5) and triples (2).

BYU enters the tournament 9-14 overall, hitting .238 with a 4.43 ERA. Jesse Craig, 1-5 with a 3.40 ERA, is scheduled to pitch against New Mexico. In 42.1 innings, Craig has fanned 38 and walked just nine. Of the Cougars' everyday players, Ben Saylor and Adrian Molina lead the team in hitting. Saylor, with a .277 avg., has a team-high 18 runs, 23 hits and four home runs. Molina, hitting .262, has driven in a team-high 15 runners and has five doubles.

Utah is 11-11 overall and 8-8 on the road, hitting .308 as a team with a 4.90 ERA. The Utes' top three starters have been Eric King (1-4, 4,40 ERA in seven starts), Lucas Trinnaman (1-1, 4.39 ERA in six starts) and Josh Cooper (2-2, 3.73 ERA in five starts). Utah head coach Bill Kinneberg's rotation for the weekend has Cooper pitching Thursday, King on Friday and Trinnaman on Saturday. It is most likely New Mexico will face one of the following: Jason Price (0-0, 15.63 ERA), who has made two starts, Rory James (1-0, 4.32 ERA) or Brandon Ast (0-1, 8.59 ERA), who have each made one start. Ryan Khoury leads the Utes and the MWC in hitting with his .438 average. He has scored a team-high 23 runs with 39 hits, nine doubles, one triple, three home runs, 21 RBI, 14 walks and 10 stolen bases. John Welsh has also been a force to be reckoned with at the plate, hitting .369 with 21 runs, 31 hits, eight doubles, four home runs and 21 RHI.

ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN: The Lobos are 17-8 overall, which is the best record in the Mountain West Conference to date. TCU and UNLV have both won 12 games, with winning percentages of .462 and .444, respectively while Utah stands 11-11. The Lobos lead the conference in batting average (.320), slugging percentage (.483), on base percentage (.410), runs scored (207), hits (282), RBIs (195), doubles (59), triples (9), home runs (22), total bases (425), sacrifice bunts (22), fielding percentage (.969), assists (326) and fielding double plays (40).

Individually, the Lobos are dominating as well. Five of the top-10 batting averages and on base percentages belong to the Lobos. New Mexico has six people in the top-10 for runs scored, including spots 1-5.Four different Lobos place in the top-10 in slugging percentage, hits and doubles while three different ones rank in the top-10 in RBIs, walks and hit by pitch. Junior Danny Ray Herrera has etched his name throughtout the pitching categories, holding the best ERA, opposing batting avg., most innings pitched, most wins, most games started, fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, fewest doubles allowed and fewest triples allowed. The fielding is just as strong, with first basemen Daniel Stovall and Chris Carlson, second baseman Jordan Pacheco, third baseman Ian Hollick and shortstop Ryan Barba in the top-10 in almost all categories.

WINNING WAYS: The Lobos are 17-8 overall, which trails only the 1993 team for the best start through the first 25 games since head coach Rich Alday took over the program in 1990. The 1993 team went on to win 35 games, which is tied with the 2000 team for the fifth most wins in a single season in program history. The 2003 team, which was 16-9 through the first 25, went on to win 34. This season's team, which had an impressive eight-game win streak, is projected to win 37 of 55 games, which includes the two guaranteed games in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: With senior Ryan Barba at shortstop, sophomore Jordan Pacheco at second base and junior Daniel Stovall at first, New Mexico opponents have run into trouble against arguably the best infield in the MWC.The Lobos' 40 double plays fielded are more than any other MWC school's production with UNLV the next closest with 32. Not to mention Barba, Stovall and Pacheco rank 1, 2 and 3 in the conference for most double plays turned with 29, 29 and 28, respectively.

FAST FOOTE: Junior Matt Foote has been running all season and shows no signs of slowing down. His 15 stolen bases on 19 tries leads the team and is tied for the high in the conference. He has scored 31 runs, the second most on the team and in the MWC.

HOT HITTING HOLLICK: Sophomore Ian Hollick has not gotten a lot of attention this season. He is hitting .340 with 21 runs scored, nine doubles, two triples, three home runs, 23 RBI, 16 walks and even four stolen bases. He leads the team in triples and holds the team's longest hitting streak at 14 games. His career-high hit streak started in Arizona on Feb. 18 and didn't end until March 18 vs. San Francisco. During his streak, he accomplished a rare feat vs. 12th-ranked Oregon State, hitting a solo home run off of Dallas Buck, which was just the third off of Buck and the fourth against the team all season.

COUNTING ON CARLSON: Junior Chris Carlson has been someone the Lobos can count on at the plate. Carlson is hitting .347, the fourth best batting average on the team, and leads the team in home runs (7), sacrifice flies (4) and slugging percentage (.642). He has 33 hits, the fourth most on the team, has scored 25 runs and drove in 31.

DOUBLIN' DAN: Junior Daniel Stovall has been a double-hitting machine this season, cranking out 16 to lead the Mountain West Conference. Stovall hit two in four different games this season, including each of the games in the series vs. Northern Colorado.

PUTTING PACHECO IN PLAY: Sophomore Jordan Pacheco is one of six Lobos to start and play in all 25 games this season. A constant defensive wizard at second, Pacheco has put out 58 batters, the third most on the team, and dished out a team-high 92 assists.When he isn't putting people out, he is putting himself on base. Pacheco is hitting .347, the fourth best average on the team, has scored a team-high 34 runs and is third on the team in hits (34). He has been hit by a pitch 10 times, drawn a team-high 19 walks and has stolen eight bases, the second most of any Lobo.

D-RAY DELIVERS: Junior Danny Ray Herrera has done nothing but deliver win after win for New Mexico. A perfect 5-0 in eight starts, Herrera holds a 1.73 ERA, the best in the MWC. Herrera has thrown two complete games, including one shutout, leading the conference in innings at 62.1. Herrera has allowed 47 hits, but only six were more than singles. He has fanned 50 and walked just 15. Only 12 earned runs have scored with Herrera on the mound.

PUT ME IN COACH, I'M READY TO PLAY: Freshman Chad Itokazu has been ready to play anywhere head coach Rich Alday wants to put him. He's started two games in right field, pinch hit and thrown in relief and performed well each time. At the plate, he is hitting .250 (3-for-12) but has one of the team's seven triples and has three RBI and four runs scored. On the mound, Itokazu has made nine appearances for 10 innings. He is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, walked six and struck out 10.

ROLE REVERSAL: Freshman Chace Lankford began the season as UNM's closer but has recently made the switch to starter. In his first three appearances, Lankford came in to close a game, compiling a 1-1 record with a save. His following three appearances as the Sunday starter resulted in a 3-0 record. Overall, Lankford has been successful no matter when he throws, posting a 5.68 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

OPENING ACT: Senior Nate Melek has claimed the starting role for New Mexico, starting all seven of his games in each of the Lobos' seven series openers. Melek, with a 4.76 ERA, has gone 3-2 with a complete game in 45.1 innings.He has walked just 11 and struck out 25. Melek has also picked off a team-high three runners.

BULLPEN BY COMMITTEE: Head coach Rich Alday has 13 different Lobos in relief so far this season. Junior Damon Miller has made the most appearances (11), going 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA in 14.2 innings. Miller, with eight strikeouts, trails freshman Chad Itokazu for the team-high with 10. Itokazu has made nine appearances, the second most on the team, going 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 innings pitched.

Three relievers, juniors Jackie Smith and Sean McKee and freshman Tim Sloan, have yet to give up a run. Of the three, Sloan has made the most appearances (2), allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out two.

Miller, Itokazu, junior Quentin Andes and freshman Chace Lankford all have wins out of the bullpen while Miller (2), Lankford (1) and freshman Jordan Salazar (1) all have at least one save.

REACHING FOR THE RECORDBOOKS: Junior Daniel Stovall is almost into the UNM career record books. Stovall, with 26 home runs, trails fifth place by eight. Jeff Grady is currently in fifth with 34 career homers. Stovall hit nine bombs in 2005 and 12 in 2004. He already has five this season.

Senior Darren Coltrinari and junior Danny Ray Herrera are vying for the same record. Herrera has made 35 career starts while Coltrinari has 32. The fifth most is 40, held by Barry Kiess (1994-97) and James Vermilyea (2001-03). The record is 47.

Both Coltrinari and Herrera are also approaching the top-5 in wins and losses. Herrera, with 16 wins, and Coltrinari, with 11 wins, are chasing Ron Adair (1971-74) and Kurt Hildebrandt (1991-93, `95), who are tied for fifth with 20. Coltrinari and Herrera both have 12 career losses, needing five to place in a four-way tie for second with 17. The record is 21, set by Barry Kiess (1994-97).

KDEF 1150 AM TO BROADCAST LOBO BASEBALL FOR THIRD CONSECUTIVE SEASON: For the third straight season, Albuquerque radio station KDEF will supply exclusive broadcasts of Lobo baseball on 1150 AM and throughout the world at www.GoLobos.com. All of the team's 29 home games will be broadcast live.

Henry Tafoya will call the play-by-play for the Lobos, while Dan Rivera and Mike Foote will provide analysis. It also marks the third straight season for the trio calling Lobo baseball. Prior to each broadcast, there will be a 15 minute pre-game show. A post-game show with interviews will follow at the conclusion of each game.

In addition to the broadcasts, all of New Mexico's home games can be followed live on the internet at www.GoLobos.com with Gametracker. Gametracker takes official statistics from the press box and provides up-to-the-minute information for users, including updated team and individual stats, an updated box score, and play-by-play. Gametracker can be accessed on the right side of UNM's home page in the upcoming events box.