March 20, 2009
Friday: Lobos 11, Northwestern 6
Up Next: 2 p.m. Saturday (DH); noon Sunday at Isotopes Park
Radio: 1150-AM KDEF
Online: GameTracker, live video on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Small ball from a Lobo team that smacks the cover off the ball? Why not? Especially when you combine the small stuff with the long stuff and produce a sizzling, seven-run inning.
Willett's well-placed, well-paced bunt down third-base line - almost a mirror image of Courcha's bunt - actually produced the winning run in New Mexico's dramatic 11-6 comeback win over Northwestern Friday night at Isotopes Park.
"That's a big part of our offense," said Lobo Dane Hamilton, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and scored a run. "We haven't had that many games where we have had to call for it, but it's something we can do."
The inning the Lobos carved out in the bottom of the eighth was a neat one. The scoring started with a solo shot by Kevin Atkinson and ended with a two-run shot by Rafael Neda. In between the long stuff, there was a double, two bunt singles, two singles and a savage triple by Dane Hamilton that landed in the deepest corner of Isotopes Park.
The rally pulled UNM out of a 6-4 hole. The Lobos also were down 4-0 before tying the game in the sixth inning on a two-out, one-run shot by Brian Cavazos-Galvez.
"It was one of those games where you struggle early, but one thing about this team is that we don't panic," said Hamilton. "Everybody stayed up in the dugout. We all knew what we had to do."
What the Lobos had to do was smack the ball. And tap it.
Atkinson led off the inning with a solo shot over the left-field fence that cut the Wildcats' lead to 6-5. Cavazos-Galvez then hit an important double because it placed the tying run on second base with no outs.
Courcha advanced Cavazos-Galvez with a sweet touch bunt that he legged into a single. Honeycutt gave the Lobos the 6-6 tie with a sacrifice fly to center field.
The Lobos then got singles from Daniel Gonzalez and Mike Brownstein followed by Willett's nifty bunt down the third-base line that scored Gonzalez. "That's us, too," said Lobo coach Ray Birmingham. UNM was up 7-6, but they kept pounding away.
Hamilton then ripped a triple about 425 feet scoring Willett and Brown. Neda then put the icing on the inning and the freeze on Northwestern by pounding a home run into the darkness high above the left-field bleachers. That scored Neda and Hamilton.
"We just kept swinging," said Hamilton. "With our lineup, we expect to put up runs."
"One thing about this team is that we don't panic."
Lobo Dane Hamilton on UNM's rally from 6-4 hole
The win was a big one for the Lobos because they are coming off a two-game sweep at No. 3-ranked Texas A&M and UNM has the record and the unofficial RPI (28) to climb into a few Top 20 polls. A loss to Northwestern, now 4-11, would have been a step back for the 19-3 Lobos.
"We can't be worrying about the polls," said Hamilton. "We have to go out there game by game and concentrate on what's in front of us. We need to keep focused."
For sure -- focus is good. But the Lobos also need to keep smacking the ball - and maybe giving it a tap now and then, too.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.