June 8, 2012
June 8, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Baseball -- 2012 Season Review
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Because of his competitive fire, because of the passion to succeed that burns in Ray Birmingham's prideful core, the Lobo coach looks back on the 2012 season and says his emotions are "mixed."
There are team still marching down the road to Omaha and the College World Series and Birmingham's New Mexico Lobos are no longer on that road. Birmingham doesn't like that.
But for observers more emotionally removed from the day-to-day bonding and the blue-collar drive that comes with being a member of this Lobo family, it was a Lobo season with maybe no equal.
Where do you start the list of accomplishments that came to Lobo baseball in 2012?
The Lobos walked away from the 2012 season with championship rings and championship trophies, but the gravy on any team's season is to march into the NCAA postseason and give yourself a chance to battle for a national title.
The Lobos did this - for the third straight year which is an accent mark on both a team and a program. "I was hoping to get to Omaha this year," said Birmingham. "I'm a little disappointed in that. The good thing is that more today than ever, I know it can happen. We can get this done."
The Lobos went into postseason with probably Birmingham's best balanced team to date. The Lobos had hitting (No. 4 nationally at .333), pitching and defense. For sure, the Lobos did not get a favorable draw in the 64-team bracket when they were shipped to the UCLA Region in Los Angeles - a region won by the Bruins, the bracket's overall No. 2 seed.
The Lobos' highlight in regional play was pounding a Top 25 San Diego team in the first round, a win which was just another accent mark on a stellar season. UNM finished 37-24 on the season, a mark that tied for the fourth-best wins in a single season.
"The University of New Mexico baseball program is one of the best in the country," said Birmingham, whose Lobos have won 30 games in four of the past five seasons. "This was a special season for us, but we still have some work to do.
"Right now, we are above 90 percent of the teams in the country, but the top ten percent is where I want to get. We're close and we're getting closer."
Said senior Ben Woodchick: "We've accomplished a lot. It means a lot to have been able to help to move this program forward."
You don't throw out the season the Lobos just threw out without being loaded with individual talent. That individual talent also draws individual recognition. The individual honors flowing into the UNM program are impressive.
There is no question that Peterson and Garver had exceptional seasons and led the way at the plate for New Mexico. But this also was a balanced club and that improved depth helped UNM turn an up-and-down start into a powerful finish. The Lobos went 21-7 in the final 31 games. They took a nine-game winning streak into the postseason.
The strong finish came down to playing baseball the right way. House explained the finish by saying the Lobos were swinging the bat a little better, pitching a little better, and fielding a little better.
With Lobos, there also is a strong pride factor that kicks in that blends in nicely with the expectations of this program and their coach.
For Birmingham and his Lobos, there should be much pride in looking back at what they did on the diamond in 2012: championship rings, titles and the postseason.
The mixed feelings that hit Birmingham at the end are to be expected. His Lobos ended the season with a loss. This prideful coach has yet to roll his team into Omaha. He has an itch to scratch.
His itch and his dream are contagious because, finally, Lobo fans can see the growth and potential. Still, New Mexico baseball fans who have waited so long for Lobos to return to NCAA play and become a player on the national stage probably can sum up the season of 2012 in two words: