July 17, 2011
Ten Lobo Moments: GoLobos.com is flashing back on ten special Lobo moments from the 2010-11 season.
Tuesday: Richard York Does It Indoors/Outdoors
Previous Flashbacks of 2010-11
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
OK, there are plain Jane Cinderella stories and then there are Cinderella stories with fairy dust, magic wands, fairy godmothers and evil ogres running around that need to be slain.
The New Mexico Lobo baseball team provided us with the latter on a glorious four-game run in San Diego at the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Oh, sure, Ray Birmingham and his Lobos had no doubts they were going to win the whole thing because that was the only way they would punch a ticket to the NCAA postseason.
However, this was the ultimate underdog story. The Lobos entered the MWC tourney with the worst seed and were coming off a three-game spanking by the ogre in this story -- the TCU Horned Frogs. The Lobos had about as much chance of winning this tourney as Japan had of beating the U.S. women for the World Cup.
But the Lobos went into the fray with the unbending resilience and optimism of youth fortified by the "Why not?" attitude of their veteran coach. The results were astounding.
The Lobos mowed down Brigham Young, No. 7 TCU, Utah and TCU again, 4-2, in the title game. The tourney title not only handed the Lobos the program's first ever Mountain West crown, but it pushed this young team into the postseason for the second consecutive year.
The Horned Frogs' team the Lobos beat in the title game was a Top 10 team that had pounded out 31 hits in two days in the losers' bracket. TCU reached the title game with a 14-1 pounding of Utah. TCU had 18 hits against the Uses. The Frogs pounded BYU 12-5 on Thursday.
When the Frogs faced Lobos in the title game, it was like Jack chopping down the beanstalk and slaying the big, bad giant. "We stuck together, believed to the end, and climbed the mountain top," said Birmingham.
It was a storybook ending for the Lobos because this had been a young team that had been kicked around most of the season by a grueling, Marquis de Sade schedule that pitted UNM against Top 25 talent -- mostly on the road. "I was worried the schedule might take away their confidence," said Birmingham. "It took time for them to figure some things out."
The one-senior Lobos figured things out at just the right time. The turnabout in San Diego was stunning and even the Lobos couldn't exactly come up with the words to explain the four-game streak. "Maybe it was the breakfast at our hotel," said Lobo pitcher Bobby Mares. "I'm not sure what happened. We just came to San Diego loose and came together at the same time."
Maybe you don't try to explain the "why" of the turnabout, but you can explain the "how" of the winning. The Lobos did it with great pitching, timely hitting and solid defense. UNM limped into the tourney with a 16-39 mark and riding a seven-game losing streak and knowing that the only way they could extend their season was by rolling to the title.
So, that's what they did. The UNM team that made this NCAA charge in Tony Gwynn Stadium was clutch at the plate and beautiful on the mound. Cinderella never looked so good.