May 21, 2009
What: Lobos at Conoco MWC Tournament
Where: Lupton Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
Thursday: Brigham Young 5, Lobos 1
Wednesday: San Diego State 2, Lobos 1
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
FORT WORTH -- The New Mexico Lobos were hoping their NCAA postseason would be settled on a baseball diamond. Now, the Lobos will learn their NCAA fate in front of a TV.
UNM went into the heart of Texas hoping to determine their NCAA future by winning the Mountain West Conference tourney title. But back-to-back losses to San Diego State and Brigham Young -- 5-1 today (Thursday) -- drop the Lobos' NCAA hopes into the hands and whims of an NCAA Selection Committee.
The Lobos were slapped into the losers' bracket Wednesday 2-1 by San Diego State and needed to string together a series of wins in order to grab the 2009 title and the automatic NCAA bid that goes to the winner.
The Lobos' hopes were dashed by BYU's Sean McNaughton, who drilled a couple of two-run home runs over the left field wall to pace BYU to the 5-1 win.
But it was a two-headed Cougar beast that ruined the Lobos' day as BYU's Marc Oslund went the distance on the mound and held the hot-hitting Lobos to four hits and a single run -- a solo homer by Justin Howard.
"We hit too many fly balls and we don't do that," said Lobo coach Ray Birmingham. "Losing doesn't sit well with me."
The Cougars advance to play No. 1 seed TCU today while the Lobos next critical day of baseball will come Monday when they gather to see if the NCAA Selection Committee thinks the Lobos' overall resume is strong enough to warrant an at-large bid.
The Lobos, now 37-20 on the year, probably will be pulling for TCU to rally out of the losers' bracket and grab the MWC tourney title. If the nationally ranked Horned Frogs have to settle for an at-large bid, that surely will hurt any other MWC team looking for at at-large invite.
The Lobos' overall body of work on the diamond in 2009 is still impressive. UNM, one of the top hitting teams in the nation in most categories, pushed its way into the Top 25 earlier in the season and finished runner-up for the MWC regular-season title to the ranked Horned Frogs. New Mexico has not played in the NCAA tourney since 1962.
McNaughton was UNM's No. 1 enemy at the plate today, but Oslund allowed only four hits and no walks going into the eighth inning. Senior Mike Brownstein got the Lobos' first walk of the game with two out in the eighth, but UNM's Max Willett grounded out to short to end the inning.
Oslund gave up no hits, no walks and no runs in the bottom of the ninth. "I don't throw very hard. I just try to throw strikes," said Oslund.
BYU finished the game with nine hits, all coming off Lobo starter Rudy Jaramillo, who went 4 2/3 innings. UNM got a great effort out of the bullpen from Clinton Cox, who pitched a scoreless game the rest of the way, yielding only three hits.
McNaughton put the Cougars on the scoreboard in the top of the third. The small Cougar went low into the strike zone and hammered the ball high and hard toward Lobo right fielder Adam Courcha. Courcha backed up to the wall and leaped at the flying leather, but had no chance as the ball left the park for a two-run homer.
The Lobos lost a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the first inning when Atkinson struck out with Honeycutt on third. Honeycutt reached base on a throwing error by the BYU shortstop and advanced to third on a single by Neda.
The Cougars sealed the win in the top of the fifth by scoring three runs, the big blow another two-run shot by McNaughton. Howard homered in the bottom of the fifth over the right field fence to avoid the shutout.