March 28, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico baseball team lost to Stephen F. Austin 9-5 Wednesday in front of 1,361 fans at Isotopes Park. The Lobos had to battle back from an early 4-0 deficit, and eventually cut the lead to 5-4, but couldn't get any closer the rest of the way. This loss came a day after the Lobos had to battle back from a 3-0, first-inning deficit against the Lumberjacks.
"These two games are about finding some more pitching," UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. "We ran some guys out there and they got smoked. It really stinks when you have to play down 4-0 or 5-0 or 6-0 in the first two innings of a ballgame."
The game was truly decided in the first inning. The Lumberjacks batted around and scored four runs on seven hits.
"The difference in the ballgame is pitching," Birmingham said. "(Lumberjack starter Chase Greening) threw strikes, pretty much most of the game, below the belt. We, on the other hand, threw everything we could above the belt."
"This whole series we kind of had some rough starts and we couldn't really come back from them," Jake McCasland said.
McCasland pitched three effective innings out of the bullpen, allowing only one run on two hits. He also struck out two and did not walk a single batter.
"I haven't got a lot of innings this year, so I was just trying to keep us where we were," he said.
The Lobos showed heart after falling behind, though. They struck for their first run in the second. Freshman and Albuquerque-native Ryan Padilla led off with a double. Mitchell Garver flew out to right, sending Padilla to third. Fellow freshman Alex Real then singled up the middle to knock him home.
"We just looked to cut the deficit and try and score some runs to keep us in the ballgame right away," Padilla said.
UNM struck for three more in the fourth, all with two outs. Padilla once again got things started with a single. A double by Garver put runners on second and third. Real was then hit by a pitch, which loaded the bases and brought John Pustay to the plate.
Pustay lashed a single to left to score both Padilla and Garver. Real, running hard the whole way, forced an errant throw by Stephen F. Austin's third baseman, Bryce Cummings, and ended up scoring on the miscue.
That would be as close as the Lobos got, though. The Lumberjacks scored three runs in the very next inning, and added one more in the seventh. A solo home run by UNM's Josh Melendez leading off the bottom of the eighth finished the scoring.
Despite the disappointing series, Birmingham remains confident in his players.
"The great thing is we do have a good team," he said. "We do have some pitching that can keep us in the ballgame. We're going to be okay. We're going to be fine. I don't want them to beat themselves up."
The Lobos now take to the road for eight-straight games. It begins this weekend with a four-game series at Fresno St.
"I definitely want to go out and have a good series in Fresno," Padilla said. "Hopefully we start playing as a team and start doing everything the right way. We're definitely capable of it, so we're looking to turn things around quickly."
"They are a very good program," Birmingham said about Fresno St. "It's another good program, and four games at their place, which nobody wants to do. But we're going to do it because what we're trying to do is get it all right by the time we get back into conference play, so we can win the conference championship and get on and win the conference tournament.
"That's the most important thing."