April 5, 2008
SAN DIEGO, Calif. --- Scott Gracey and Matt Hibbitts made clutch hits in the top of the ninth inning as the University of New Mexico baseball team edged out San Diego State, 5-4, on Saturday afternoon at Tony Gwynn Stadium. The win improves the Lobos record to 20-10 overall and 5-3 in Mountain West Conference action, tied for the conference lead. SDSU drops to 17-12 overall and 5-3 in the MWC.
"We are going out there to win, instead of trying not to lose," said Lobo head coach Ray Birmingham. "We are showing a new aggressiveness, especially Scott Gracey in how he battled at the plate today. Matt Hibbitts was fighting his old swinging habits today, but he got back on top of the ball and got us some runs. I just told Brian Cavazos-Galvez to go out and hit a home run and he did."
Hibbitts picked up where he left off on Friday night with a single in the top of the first inning to score Dane Hamilton and give UNM a 1-0 lead. For Hibbitts, it was his seventh consecutive hit, going back to his final at-bat on March 30 against Vermont, and extended his consecutive-game hit streak to 12.
Lobo starter Jacob Norton kept the Aztecs off the scoreboard until the bottom of the seventh when catcher Bubba Ruddy hit a home run over the left field wall, tying the score at 1-1. SDSU third baseman Nick Romero hit a two-out double into the left field corner to score Brandon Decker and Troy Hanzawa, giving the Aztecs a 3-1 lead. Lobo closer Clinton Cox came into the game, striking out Garett Green to end the seventh.
Right fielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez got the Lobos back to within one in the top of the eighth with a two-out solo home run to left center, 3-2, his third home run of the season.
The Lobos tied the game in the top of the ninth on a Gracey RBI single that scored Kevin Atkinson, 3-3. Hibbitts came up with his second hit of the game three batters later, a two-run double to score Gracey and Ian Hollick, and put the Lobos up 5-3 with two outs.
SDSU made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth plating a run by Brett Tanos on a groundout by Hanzawa to cut the UNM lead to 5-4. With two outs, Cox got Green to groundout to Hollick at third for the win.
"We are starting to believe that we can beat anybody," continued Birmingham. "I've been telling them that all along. Jake (Norton) had an outstanding outing and (Clinton) Cox did well in relief."
Cox (1-0) earned his first win of the season in relief of Norton, while Addison Reed (2-1) took the loss in relief for the Aztecs.
Norton threw 6.2 innings in front of family and friends in his native California, striking out five batters, walking only one and giving up three runs on nine hits. Cox, in 2.1 innings of relief, struck out three, walked two, and gave up one run on one hit.
Gracey led all Lobo hitters with three hits, while Hibbits recorded his 14th multi-hit game of the season with two to go along with three RBI.
Mike Brownstein had his consecutive-game hit streak end at 17, the longest by a Lobo so far this season, as the starting second baseman was 0-for-3 on the day at the plate.
The Lobos and Aztecs wrap up the three-game series on Sunday, April 6, with a 2 p.m. (MDT) start at Tony Gwynn Stadium.