May 17, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico baseball team showed off its bats in a 22-4 drubbing of the Air Force Falcons in front of 1,466 fans at Isotopes Park on Thursday afternoon. The 22 runs and 22 hits are both season-highs for the Lobos this year.
“We came out today looking for a quality win and looking to finish the season strong,” freshman and Albuquerque-native Ryan Padilla said. “We got some hits today.”
The Lobos jumped to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the second behind five hits, including two doubles, and two Falcon errors. That proved to be enough for Austin House, the Lobos’ ace, who threw six innings, gave up two runs on two hits and struck out five as he improves his record to 6-5.
After giving up two runs in the top of the fifth inning the Lobos exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the frame. Josh Melendez led the inning off with a single then stole second base for his team-leading 21st stolen base of the season. The next batter, Trey Porras, hit a high pop up that was dropped by the Falcons’ second baseman, which sent Melendez to third. This Lobo offense doesn’t need extra outs, as they followed the error with five straight hits and the next seven out of eight batters reached base. The end result was eight runs in the inning which extended the Lobos’ lead to 12-2.
Two innings later the Lobos improved that effort by two runs. Fueled by three walks and two hit-by-pitches, the Lobos added five hits to produce 10 runs in the inning. This is the first time the Lobos have scored ten runs in an inning since they faced Binghamton on March 7, 2009.
The inning was started by a four-pitch walk to DJ Peterson, his third of four walks in the game, and was followed by Ryan Padilla getting hit by a pitch. Melendez then hit a scorching grounder towards the shortstop, which appeared to be leading to a double play. The ball, though, promptly deflected off the second-base umpire’s leg into left field which loaded the bases for the Lobos. Porras then drew a bases-loaded walk to score Peterson. After an Air Force pitching change, Kyle Stiner hit into a fielder’s choice which scored Padilla and Alex Real followed that with an RBI single to right. Pinch hitter Chris Nunez was then also hit by a pitch to load the bases for John Bench Award semifinalist Mitchell Garver.
Garver scorched a ball over the left fielder’s head for his third double of the game, driving in two. A Ben Woodchick single and Peterson’s second walk in the inning brought up Padilla again.
Padilla crushed a 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall onto the berm for the first grand slam for UNM since Brian Cavasos-Galvez did it against Northern Colorado on February 28, 2009. The grand slam gave the Lobos a 22-2 lead which they would hold onto.
“I still have some things to work on before the end of the season,” Padilla said,” but that definitely felt good.”
It was a total team effort on offense for the Lobos. Garver led the way with five hits in seven at bats and four RBIs. Padilla went 2-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs scored. Melendez added four hits, and Stiner and Real both drove in three.
Despite the excellent offensive performance, UNM head coach Ray Birmingham still sees room for improvement.
“(It was) kind of okay,” he said. “I want them to get after it all the time and I didn’t feel it all the way.
The Lobos are still fighting for the regular-season championship in the Mountain West and are now a half-game behind the leaders, TCU. The Horned Frogs are hosting San Diego State this weekend and the Lobos have to hope the Aztecs pull out at least one win if they want a chance at the regular-season crown.
“That one’s over,” Birmingham said. “We got two more we have to get and pull for San Diego State.”
The Lobos and Falcons meet at noon (MT) on Friday at Isotopes Park. Sophomore Josh Walker will get the start on the mound for UNM.