April 9, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In front of its largest home crowd of the season, the University of New Mexico baseball team captured a statement win in emphatic fashion Monday night. The Lobos defeated No. 21 Arizona State 15-6 in front of 1,970 fans at Isotopes Park as DJ Peterson went 3-5 with two home runs, his third multi-homer game of the season, to raise his average to an NCAA-leading .471.
“It was a good game on our behalf,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. “But tomorrow the scoreboard starts at zero and we start again.”
The offensive output backed Rudy Jaramillo’s longest outing of the season. He hurled 7.1 effective innings, scattering 10 hits, striking out four and throwing 79 of his 121 pitches for strikes. His record improved to 3-2 on the season as the Lobos snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Sun Devils.
“Rudy pitched his butt off today,” Peterson said. “Rudy did a very good job today. It was a very good team effort today.”
But the story of the day was the Lobos’ offense. Aside from a 1-0 loss to Air Force on Saturday, UNM has been hitting the cover off the ball. They scored 19 runs on Thursday, 17 on Friday, and 15 on Monday. After falling behind 2-0 early, the Lobos scored the next 15 runs of the game. They scored one in the second, four in the third, four in the fourth, two in the fifth, and four in the sixth. The score would have been even more lopsided if the Lobos didn’t leave the bases loaded in the first inning as well.
“We all have potential to be great hitters,” Peterson said. “Obviously these last three games, we’ll scratch out that one at Air Force, we’ve all been hitting and doing what we can do and not thinking too much, relaxing, not getting in our own way, having fun, and playing some baseball.”
Every Lobo player had at least one hit, scored at least one run, and reached base at least two times.
Peterson, Trey Porras, and Kyle Stiner led the way with three hits each. One of Porras’ hits was his first-career home run, an opposite-field shot in the fourth inning. Stiner recorded a single, double, and triple, and fell a home run short of the cycle.
“It makes pitching easier,” Jaramillo said. “I just have to go out there and make my pitches and know I have 15 runs behind me and get some outs.”
Peterson’s effort came in front of many family members who traveled for the game. His cousin, Nathaniel Causey, is a catcher for the Sun Devils, and his grandfather, Charles Lundsford threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“Every time (my family) comes out I try to do good, and I did good today,” he said.
Peterson was better than good; he was fantastic, and has been all season. His home runs, both two-run shots, came in the fifth and sixth innings.
His second home run of the day seemed to be especially gratifying. He thought he had drawn a walk on a 3-1 pitch but the home plate umpire called a late strike after Peterson had already taken a couple steps towards first. But he got back in the batter’s box and promptly hit the next pitch into Arizona State’s bullpen beyond the leftfield wall. It gave him 10 home runs in 31 games after he hit only six all of last season.
It is Peterson’s batting average, however, that really catches the eye. He came into the game third in the country, and his three hits propelled him above the two players in front of him, neither of which played Monday night.
“It’s a big deal for the university and for me,” Peterson said about leading the nation. “But we must be (ranked high) as a team. Everyone’s hitting and it makes it easy for me when everyone’s hitting.”
Birmingham said it’s one of his goals for Peterson to finish the season ranked as the leading hitter in the country.
“He has the tools to do it,” he said. “I want him and his family to have a lot of success. And every kid that comes here I want to teach them to be a good baseball player and make it to the pros and be on TV. Every kid that wears the cherry and silver is important to me.”
Peterson is trying to become the second Lobo to lead the nation in hitting in three years. Justin Howard hit .456 in 2010 to lead the country.
The offensive explosion came against an Arizona State team that came into the game with a 2.62 staff ERA. The Sun Devils had not experience a road loss this bad since falling 20-3 to LSU on Mar. 13, 2005.
The game, however, was not well-played as each team committed five errors and seven of the 21 runs were unearned.
“Both teams played bad defense today,” Birmingham said. “Ten errors. We can’t be proud of that. I’m glad we won but it wasn’t good baseball. I’m happy for the kids but it’s back to work. You can’t make five errors.
“There’s a good baseball team here, and I’ve told them that repeatedly. Just keep going to work and try to get everyone to execute and do things the right way.
Sam Wolff will get the start for the Lobos in the series finale on Tuesday, which will be nationally televised by CBS SportsNetwork. The Lobos (15-16) are looking to reach .500 for the first time since defeating Nevada on Feb. 18 to improve to 1-1.