March 29, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team turned its first triple play in nearly two years and used a three-run seventh to rally past San Diego St. 7-5 Friday afternoon at Lobo Field. UNM (13-12, 6-2) moves above .500 for the first time this season and retains sole possession of first place in the Mountain West while the Aztecs (12-14, 4-4) fall two games back.
Jared Holley broke a 1-for-21 slump with a two-run single in the seventh to provide UNM its winning margin. Gabe Aguilar (3-2) allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings to earn his third win and Josh Walker recorded the final five outs for his fourth save of the season.
“These are the exciting (games),” Alex Real, who finished the day 3-for-3 with two walks said. “Every time the other team gets up on us we’re going to fight back. We’re not done. You’re not going to defeat us early in the game because we’re going to keep fighting until the end. We showed that today.”
Trailing 5-4 in the seventh, Real got the winning rally started with a double off the wall in left center. Ryan Padilla walked and freshman Jered Meek put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put two men in scoring position. Josh Melendez then walked to load the bases for Alex Allbritton.
The senior lined a shot that the Aztec first baseman, Ryan Muno, barely had time to react to. It glanced off his glove and into foul territory. Allbritton was safe at first and each runner advanced a base to tie the score. That set the stage for Holley.
Before he went up to the plate, UNM head coach Ray Birmingham had a brief conversation with his freshman shortstop and told him that if he got a first-pitch fastball to put it into right field.
Holley got one and did exactly what his coach told him.
“I finally figured it out,” Holley said. “That last at bat felt good. It helped out the team. It felt good (because) I had been struggling.”
The triple play came in the third and was a turning point in the game for UNM. The Aztecs had struck for three runs in the inning off struggling starter A.J. Carman. They had runners on first and third with nobody out when UNM found a bit of luck.
“The difference in the ballgame was they ran themselves into a triple play,” Birmingham said.
With the runner on first in motion, the cleanup hitter for SDSU, Jake Romanski, lined a pitch right back up the middle. It glanced ever so slightly off Carman and directly at Sam Haggerty who was practically standing on the bag at second. He caught it on the fly, threw to Allbritton at third to double off that runner, who thought the ball had hit the ground and was sprinting towards home. Allbritton threw to Real at first to complete the triple play for UNM since May 20, 2011 against TCU.
“The guy from first was stealing on the play, and I was breaking to the bag,” Haggerty said of the first triple play he had ever been a part of. “It had tipped off Carman’s glove and I was able to keep my eye on it and catch it. I threw it to third first because we want that out more than the one at first. At the same time we were also able to get the out at first.”
Despite trailing 3-0, UNM took advantage of the momentum from the triple play and tied the game in the bottom of the inning.
Real followed with a bloop singled just over the shorstop’s head. Garver alertly advanced to third, and then Real matched his heads up base running and advanced to second on the throw. Ryan Padilla singled to right to knock home Garver and tie the game with no outs. SDSU’s starter Philip Walby limited the damage, though, with a strikeout, a foulout, and another strikeout.
The Lobos left 10 men on base in the game, and for six innings it appeared that might come back to haunt them.
The Aztecs jumped back out in front with a run in the fifth as they chased Carman from the game, but UNM tied the game in the sixth.
Melendez led off with a double down the line in left. Allbritton quickly fell behind 0-2, but patiently worked the count, fouling off numerous pitches, to even the count at 2-2. He then bounced a ball up the middle just out of the reach of SDSU’s second baseman that allowed Melendez to score and tie the game.
The Aztecs battled right back, however, and retook the lead with a run in the top of the seventh courtesy of two doubles off Aguilar. After the Lobos rallied in the bottom of the seventh, Walker closed the door for his fourth save.
“How about Josh Walker?” said Birmingham. “That was big time. Was that big time or what? He was locating and pitching. That’s a big deal. We need that.”
UNM now has a chance to sweep Saturday as senior Sam Wolff (1-2, 4.91 ERA) takes the mound. Just like in 2012 the Lobos have won their first three MW series of the season and will look to win their 11th straight home game over the Aztecs.
Notes: Garver now has 230 career hits, only three shy of Rafael Neda’s career record for UNM catchers … Birmingham now has 997 career wins spanning over a quarter-century … All-American DJ Peterson did not play after tweaking a hamstring Thursday against the Aztecs … SDSU has not won in Albuquerque since a 1-0 victory April 17, 2009 … Saturday is Youth Day at Lobo Field. All youth ages 2-18 get in for only $3 and anyone bringing a new or gently used children’s book will receive a free ticket. After the game kids can participate in an Easter egg hunt on the field.