May 28, 2004
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Freshman third baseman Jay Russell hit a game-winning, bases-loaded single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to propel the second-seeded New Mexico baseball team to a thrilling 9-8 comeback victory over fifth-seeded Utah in the consolation bracket of the Mountain West Conference Tournament Friday afternoon. The Lobos now advance to the semifinals Friday night at 7 p.m. PT, and will play of the loser of the UNLV-San Diego State game which began at 3 p.m.
For the second straight week, the Lobos came back to win a game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Down 9-8 with three outs left in the season, Josh Mader led off the inning with a double to left field. After a strikeout, Sean Murray drilled a ball to center field and hustled to second for a double, scoring Mader to tie the game. Utah then elected to intentionally walk Daniel Stovall - who was 3-for-4 with a homer - to set up the double play. The strategy appeared to work after Buck struck out A.J. Spitaleri for the second out, but he walked the next batter, Matt Foote, to load the bases for Russell. Russell, who walked up to the plate 0-for-3 for the game, delivered a 0-1 pitch through the right side of the infield for the game-winning hit.
The ninth inning was really just the ending of a two-inning rally for UNM. New Mexico was up 5-4 after the third, and the scored stayed the same until Utah tied it with one run in the seventh. The Utes then went ahead 8-5 with three runs in the top of the eighth. Not to worry.
Stovall, who sparked a four-run rally with a lead-off homer in the ninth in last week's 5-4 comeback win over UNLV, did the same this game, leading off the bottom of the eighth with a deep shot to left field. Spitaleri, the next batter, followed the back-to-back job with a towering blast to center field, cutting the margin to 8-7.
Kevin Letz picked up his first victory of the season after firing 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. He replaced starter Cooper Eddy during Utah's rally in the eighth. Eddy struck out five and scattered 12 hits on eight runs.
Buck (6-5), who entered in the eighth, took the loss for Utah.
The Lobos collected 14 hits in the game, including a 3-for-4 performance by Sean Murray. Murray had two doubles and an RBI triple. Mader also hit doubles and scored two runs.