April 8, 2009
What: Lobos at Utah Utes
When/Where: April 9-11; Lindquist Field, Ogden
Online: GameTracker on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Gut check? For sure! You go to TCU and drop three league games and you have to reach down and see what you got. "We're not down," said Lobo Ryan Honeycutt. "We can't wait to go to Utah and see if we can make a statement there."
Reality check? Probably. But the reality isn't so much that the once-Top 25 Lobos lost three straight to the Horned Frogs. The reality is that this stuff happens to good teams. You take the blow. You move on. Chances are there won't be any undefeated baseball teams playing in the College World Series.
"Every team in the country will get their rears kicked like that at some point," said Lobo coach Ray Birmingham of TCU's three-game sweep of Lobos. "And TCU is no slouch. They have some of the top arms in Texas.
"TCU put their A game out there and we showed up with a B-minus or a C-plus. That's my fault."
The Lobos' three losses at TCU (4-2, 7-3, 19-3) dropped the No. 18 Lobos out of the national rankings and left them 25-8 overall and 5-4 in the Mountain West Conference. TCU and San Diego State top the league standings at 6-3 followed by UNM and BYU at 5-4. UNLV stands at 4-5, Utah is 3-6 and Air Force is 1-5.
"It was rough," Lobo Ryan Honeycutt said of the TCU trip. "We came out and hit the ball well. Our swings were on. We just hit it hard right at people."
Coach Birmingham has long preached it's how you finish a season that matters most and that's true. But the Lobos also are trying to carve out a resume that makes them a strong candidate for an NCAA at-large bid should Lobos not finish atop the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
So, that makes this part of the season pretty important, too. The Lobos need to knock off the Utes a time or two or three. After the Thursday thru Saturday battle with Utes, the Lobos visit Arizona on April 14-15. A win over a Pac-10 team looks good on an NCAA resume, too.
But first comes the Utes. Honeycutt says the Lobos go on this trip carrying a positive frame of mind and a burning hunger to get back on the diamond.
"We understand what happened at TCU," said Honeycutt. "They played better than us and that happens. This might be the low point of our season, but we know we'll come out of it. We're ready to go. We're ready to play again."
The entire UNM lineup bats .290 or higher and you have to expect UNM to generate a few more runs against a Ute pitching staff which isn't as highly regarded as the arms at TCU.
Senior pitcher John Hesketh said the Lobos played too tentative at TCU, made too many mistakes, and played a team that wasn't doing the same in return. He expects a tougher Lobo crew in Utah.
"It seemed like we were playing not to lose," said Hesketh. "I think we beat ourselves in a lot of ways, but you have to give TCU credit for capitalizing on those mistakes. Every team goes through this. We didn't play our best baseball, so you pick yourself up and get back in the saddle.
"It was a blow losing three games, but it's over and we can't worry about what's in the past. We have to work hard and look forward. We know we were in the Top 25 for a reason, so we just get back to what we were doing."
"We know we were in the Top 25 for a reason, so we just get back to what we were doing."
Lobo senior pitcher John Hesketh
"We just got out of ICU (intensive care unit)," said Birmingham. "That's fine. It happens. Maybe the guys learned there aren't any days off. The Mountain West is one of the tougher conferences in the country.
"We got to work harder and be tougher. But if you plan on being a Lobo, you had better plan on being tough."