April 27, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team has seen its fair share of late-inning rallies, both for and against, this season. It got a little bit of both Saturday afternoon at Lobo Field as UNM scored four in the eighth and hung on for a 5-3 victory.
It was the ninth-straight win for the Lobos and their seventh-straight Mountain West series victory. UNM also gained a five-game lead in the MW with only 10 conference games remaining.
“It’s always a grind, but those come-from-behind (wins) are always big to keep the momentum going,” Luke Campbell said. “We’ve had two of those wins in the last two weeks. Those are big team wins right there.”
Leading 1-0 in the top of the eighth, the Lobos (26-16, 16-4) saw UNLV (27-15, 11-9) score twice with two outs to take a 2-1 lead.
But the Lobos wasted no time retaking the lead in the bottom half of the frame. Sam Haggerty led off with a single just over the outstretched glove of UNLV’s shortstop. DJ Peterson followed with a four-pitch walk to put two men on for Mitch Garver.
Garver is the Lobos’ cleanup hitter and also happens to be one of the team’s best bunters. He placed a perfect one to third. He reached on a single, and Joey Armstrong, UNLV’s third baseman, threw the ball into right field trying to throw out Garver.
The error allowed both Haggerty and Peterson to score and moved Garver to second. Pinch hitter John Pustay then followed with a single to left center that scored Garver and increased UNM’s lead to 4-2.
“He knew he was going to get a hit,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. “He really can hit. He can effortlessly hit the big fly too.”
A wild pitch and groundout moved Pustay to third. Campbell then made the score 5-2 with a sacrifice fly to center.
It was the ninth time this season UNM scored the winning runs in a game in the seventh inning or later.
A strikeout and single cut the lead to 5-3, and a wild pitch put the tying run on second with two outs. But the senior lefty bore down and struck out UNLV’s two-hole hitter to earn the first save of his career.
“That’s who really impressed me, is Aguilar,” Birmingham said. “He has just been a bulldog this whole streak. He’s not scared. It’s what he does. There’s no panic.”
UNM’s starter, Sam Wolff, was really impressed with the work of the Lobo bullpen.
“They’ve been lights out,” he said. “When you hand over the ball and they come in there’s this sense of confidence that the next guy’s going to get it done.”
UNM took the lead in the fourth. After the teams traded zeroes through the first three and a half innings, it looked like more of the same in the bottom of the fourth as the first two Lobos were retired.
But Josh Melendez rocketed a ball off the glove of UNLV’s third baseman for a single that extended his hitting streak to 21 games. Campbell followed with a laser to the left-center field gap. The triple scored Melendez and gave UNM a 1-0 lead.
Wolff made the lead hold up most of the afternoon.
The senior righty was fantastic once again as he hurled six shutout innings. He allowed only five hits and one walk with one strikeout and threw 52 of his 91 pitches for strikes. He was denied a victory after the Rebels’ rally in the eighth, though.
“I was just trying to pound the fastball and get ahead in counts as much as I could,” he said. “My job is to throw strikes and let my defense work. It makes it easy to pitch when you have guys like (Alex) Allbritton, (Jared) Holley, and Haggerty and DJ making some pretty amazing plays.”
Walker earned the win to move to 5-0. He allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings. He struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Campbell, who was the only Lobo to enjoy a multi-hit afternoon, finished 2-for-3 with two RBI.
“The guy can hit,” Birmingham said of his senior left fielder. “He just missed a homer, too, on a good fastball in.”
The Lobos will go for their astounding third-straight MW series sweep Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m.MT, at Lobo Field. Junior A.J. Carman will get his 11th start on the mound for UNM.
Notes: The crowd of 773 was the second largest at Lobo Field this season … Holley had five assists from his shortstop position to lead the Lobos … Sunday concludes Fan Appreciation Weekend and once again admission will be free for all who attend.