Feb. 23, 2008
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M -- Willy Kesler tossed 5.2 innings of two-run ball and shortstop Scott Gracey had a career night at the plate to lead the University of New Mexico baseball team (3-0) to a 13-3 win over Eastern Michigan in Game Two of Saturday's doubleheader at Isotopes Park.
"Game One, the Lobos learned how to battle. The kids told me in the past they feared `game over', but they know how to hit and they were never out of reach," head coach Ray Birmingham said after Game Two. "Today, the pitchers went at people and I said if they are going to beat you, let them beat you, don't beat yourself."
Kesler, a junior transfer out of Lamar Community College, held the Eagles to only four hits through five innings and fanned six en route to his first victory as a Lobo. The Eagles were held scoreless by Kesler until a pair of singles in the sixth brought in two runs. Freshman catcher Rafael Neda threw out three Eagles at second in his first collegiate start behind the dish, including the first two batters of the game who each reached on singles.
Kesler exited the game with the Lobos up, 4-2, thanks to a run-scoring double off the bat of center fielder Max Willett in the first inning. Willett would later come around to score on a fielder's choice.
In the fourth inning, junior Brian Cavazos-Galvez opened the inning with a bunt single, Neda followed with a walk, and both advanced on a perfect sacrifice bunt from junior Dane Hamilton. Gracey then lined a triple to right center, the first of his career, to bring in Cavazos-Galvez and Neda. Gracey would finish the game with a career-high four hits and five RBIs.
The offense was all Lobos as the only other score for the Eagles would be a home run in the seventh for catcher Matt Skirving. Senior left-hander Jacob Norton preserved the lead, pitching two innings of two-hit ball, while transfer Clinton Cox entered in the bottom of the eighth to close out the game for the second night in a row.
"Willy Kesler pitched his butt off and Clinton Cox is a stud," continued Birmingham. "Jacob Norton did a great job and we got some pitching today. That is the key. What we want to do is be aggressive...aggressive pitchers, aggressive hitters."
New Mexico capped off the night with a five-run eighth. Five Lobos provided hits including a two-run single up the middle courtesy of Neda and a double to right-center for junior Mike Brownstein, who finished the night with three RBIs and four stolen bases.
The loss went to EMU's starter freshman Jake Stapf who gave up six hits and seven runs through six innings pitched.
In the matinee game, it took a ninth-inning rally and a stellar effort from the bullpen, but the Lobo baseball team pulled out their second win of the season.
The Lobos entered the bottom half of the first down three. After a single by senior Matt Hibbitts, catcher Drew McDonald repeated his first at-bat from Friday night, and belted a home run to make the score 3-2. Juniors Max Willett and Kevin Atkinson provided two consecutive doubles to left center in the third to knot the game at three.
The Eagles responded with four runs in the third, including a three-run homer by senior Jeff Davis, but the Lobo bullpen ended the offensive explosion, holding the Eagles scoreless for the next five innings. Senior Adam Skelton and juniors John Hesketh and Daniel Grubbs went 2.1 innings a piece to keep New Mexico in the game.
The Lobo offense came alive in the seventh with a two-run single by McDonald who finished the game with four RBIs. Willett, who had two hits on the day, singled in Gracey in the eighth to bring the Lobos within one, 7-6.
The Eagles tacked on a run in the ninth and the Lobos made two quick outs in the bottom half of the frame still trailing by two. Junior Anthony Martinez entered the game to pinch-hit, drawing a walk to keep the inning alive for freshman Rafael Neda, who doubled in the run to pull the Lobos within one, 8-7. Senior Chad Itokazu singled in Neda to tie the score at 8. Itokazu would score the winning run on a close call at home two batters later to give the Lobos a walk-off win.
The win went to junior Daniel Grubbs while Dan Puls took the loss for the Eagles.
"This team is going to have to have a little duct tape and baling wire on it, but they can win because they are scrappy," said Birmingham.
The series finale is set for noon on Sunday, Feb. 24, at Isotopes Park.