May 8, 2010
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.--The University of New Mexico Lobo baseball team defeated No. 4 TCU, 3-2 this afternoon in front of 3,026 fans at Isotopes Park. The Lobos got three runs in the fourth off senior Chris Juarez's two-run home run and senior Max Willett's solo shot to left field. New Mexico got a strong performance on the mound from senior Willy Kesler, who pitched his third complete game of the season and shutdown the second best offense in the Mountain West Conference. With the victory the Lobos even the series at one game and improve to 31-16 on the season and 13-6 in MWC play. No. 4 TCU falls to 35-10 and 15-4.
"It always feels good when you beat a team of that caliber," said Lobo head coach Ray Birmingham. "TCU is a very good baseball team. I can't say enough about Willy Kesler. Willy has been on fire the last three or four weeks. Our pitching has been outstanding the last two ballgames. This kind of win helps our chances of getting to a regional. The University of New Mexico has three wins over two top-5 teams. I've got that picture of the 1962 Lobo baseball team that went to a regional and I think about that all the time."
With the win the Lobos snap a six-game losing streak to the fourth-ranked Horned Frogs that dates back to May 22, 2008.
Kesler (5-1) pitched another gem on the mound for New Mexico and picked his fifth win of the season. Kesler is 3-0 in his last three starts. The Thornton, Colo., native went all nine innings, scattering four hits and had nine strikeouts. Going into the ninth, Kesler had a pitched 28 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. A one out, two-run home run by TCU's Matt Curry put a halt to that streak. Kesler responded by striking out designated hitter Josh Elander and getting Jerome Pena to ground out to second baseman Adam Courcha to end the game. Kesler threw 140 pitches in his third complete game of the season.
"This is a huge win for our program," said Kesler. "Beating these guys is something we've needed to go since I came here. This is huge, especially at home and having all our fans behind us. I was just trying to compete and do whatever I could to help the team get the victory."
In the third, the Lobos got three runs off three hits. Junior Ryan Honeycutt drew a walk and was on first base when Juarez blasted a shot that bounced off the lower part of the scoreboard in left-center field. Two batters later, Willett crushed a belt-high fastball over the left field fence to put the Lobos on top, 3-0. Juarez hit his second home run in six days for his second of the season and his career. Willett hit his first of the season.
"He (Winkler) threw two sliders away and they missed," said Willett. "I was focused on one spot and he threw me a fastball right where I was looking. I was able to turn on it and got a good swing on the ball."
Junior All-America candidate Rafael Neda went 2-for-4 with two doubles. Neda is 4-for-7 (.571) with two doubles this series against the MWC's top pitching staff.
Willett made several highlight-reel catches on the tricky center field berm at Isotopes Park. In the TCU half of the fifth inning, Willett tracked down a hard hit ball to the deepest part of the park in right-center field and went up the berm and made a diving catch into wall.
"Once I found my footing I was OK," said Willett. "I haven't been shy in saying I don't like that berm. I was able to find my footing really well today."
TCU starting pitcher Kyle Winkler (7-1) went the distance as well and suffered his first loss of the season and the second loss of his two-year career as a Horned Frog. Winkler gave up three runs on five hits.
The Lobos and the Horned Frogs will play the rubber match Sunday at 5:30 p.m. MT at Isotopes Park. Sunday's game will be featured on 101.7 FM The TEAM. Scott Galetti and former Lobo baseball player Pete Henderson will call the action live from Isotopes Park. For more information, visit www.GoLobos.com.