May 15, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Baseball -- at Isotopes Park
Lobos 12, New Mexico State 10
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
ALBUQUERQUE -- The skid is over. The Rio Grande Rivalry Cup is safe. And maybe Lobo Mitch Garver is a prophet of the diamond.
"Mitch Garver came up to me right before that last at-bat and he said, `Do you want to see a walk-off?' I said, 'I sure do,'" said Lobo Coach Ray Birmingham. "How about that? He called it."
At that point in the long, but entertaining evening, Birmingham probably would have settled for a walk-off single. This was a baseball game that was beginning to look like a marathon. Instead, Garver golfed a two-run homer over the left field wall in Isotopes Park to produce a 12-10 win in the 11th inning.
The win snapped a UNM losing skid to the Aggies (31-20) that dated back to March 10, 2010. The come-from-behind win also guaranteed the Rio Grande Rivalry Cup would stay on Lobo soil.
"I was thinking I was going to go to bed early tonight and it ended up being a five-hour game, something like that," said Garver of the game that began at 6:05 p.m. and ended just short of 10:20 p.m.
Garver said he was aware the Rio Grande Rivalry Cup was on the line for this contest, but that wasn't really what motivated him.
"It's beating the Aggies," said Garver, who went 4-for-7 on the night as the only player on both teams to notch seven at-bats. "Everytime we beat them, it's like a good chunk of our season was completed. It's a good feeling to go out there and finally get a hold of one and clinch the (Cup)."
If the Aggies had defeated the Lobos Tuesday night, the two schools would have tied for the Trophy. This competition awards points for the various UNM/NMSU battles throughout the season. NMSU stepped into Isotopes Park with a 3-0 lead over UNM this season on the baseball diamond.
"We don't mean to diminish the Rio Grande Rivalry," said Birmingham, "but we're not going to jeopardize our pitching staff."
It's always nice for Lobos to beat Aggies, but Birmingham and his team have bigger fish to fry as they are in a race with TCU for the 2012 Mountain West regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming MW tournament to be held in Las Vegas.
UNM and TCU both have three games to play and the Horned Frogs are up a game over UNM. However, in this marathon of hours and hitting both New Mexico State and UNM made more than a few calls to the bullpen.
"We let everybody pitch. We had 10 walks and three hits batmen," said Birmingham.
The Lobos pounded the Aggies for 17 hits and the Aggies gave the same number back. NMSU had three errors to one for the Lobos and those two extra errors probably cost the Aggies the win.
NMSU went into the bottom of the eighth nursing a two-run lead. The Aggies had a strong reliever on the mound in Scott Coffman. He got UNM's Chris Nunez to hit a grounder to the left side, but an error placed Nunez on the bag. Lobo Ben Woodchick then hit a screamer back to the mound, but Coffman made a nice snag.
The Aggie hurler quickly whirled to face second, maybe too quickly, and threw behind the NMSU shortstop, who was covering second. The ball ended up in shallow center field. Nunez ended up on third and Woodchick advanced to second base. Josh Melendez scored his two teammates with a sharp, low liner that slipped past the NMSU second baseman. Both runs were unearned.
The Aggies again took the lead in the ninth by a 10-9 count. NMSU's Robert Lecount was hit by a pitch and then sacrificed to second. He scored on a Tanner Rust double down the left-field line. Rust's ball just looped past Lobo third baseman Alex Real and the ball appeared to hook foul by inches.
"I can't comment on that. I'd like to, but I can't," said Birmingham of the ball the ump on the line called fair. Lecount scored on the play to put the Aggies up by one run.
UNM's Ben Woodchick singled home a run for UNM with two outs in the bottom of ninth to force extra innings.
The Lobos had a chance to end the contest in the 10th frame when freshman Ryan Padilla led off the inning with a long double to the right-field corner. He was stranded at that bag.
During his game-winning at-bat in the 11th, Garver said he looked at two sliders inside before deciding to attack a third that was low, but more to the middle of the plate.
"The third one was a slider that was low and I kind of golfed it out of the yard," said Garver. "I can't believe it got out. I just swung at it and blacked out (running) around the bases. It felt great."
The Aggies had five players with multi-hit games including Bryan Karraker, who went 4-of-6 with three RBIs. "They are a good team," said Garver. "We're throwing good pitches out there, low and in the zone, and they are still doing things with them."
The Lobos had six players with multi-hit games: Garver (4-of-7), DJ Peterson (2-of-5) Ryan Padilla (2-of-5), Josh Melendez (2-of-5) Kyle Stiner (2-of-5) and Alex Real (2-of-5). The win gives UNM a 30-22 mark heading into its final Mountain West series Thursday, Friday and Saturday vs. Air Force.