April 22, 2013
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - After opening the season ranked No. 21 by Baseball America, the University of New Mexico baseball team fell out of the rankings after a season-opening loss to Oklahoma St. at Isotopes Park. But now, two months later, the Lobos' play has become impossible to ignore and they re-joined the rankings at No. 24 this week after their second straight Mountain West series sweep.
UNM, which has won seven straight games, is now 24-16 overall and 14-4 in MW play, and the players are pumped about the ranking.
Senior righty Sam Wolff said, "It's really cool."
Senior center fielder Josh Melendez, who owns a 19-game hitting streak, described it as "exciting."
Still, the Lobos know there is a lot of work left to do, and their head coach won't let them forget it.
"It's cool because we have started to gel," Lobo skipper Ray Birmingham said. "We need some more guys on the mound to step it up because we want to get to Omaha (and the College World Series). There's still a lot of baseball left to be played."
If the Lobos continue playing the way they have been over the last few weeks, however, they will be a tough out in the NCAAs.
Since moving to Lobo Field on March 24, UNM has posted a 14-5 record, including an 8-1 mark at their new home. Since then they are hitting .340 and slugging .515 as a team. They have hit a staggering 57 doubles (averaging three per game) and have scored 160 runs.
Seven starters are hitting .301 or better, led by Melendez's .417 clip. His 13 extra-base hits (eight doubles, two triples, three home runs) and .708 slugging also pace the club.
Just as importantly, though, the Lobos' pitching and defense have also drastically improved. Since moving to Lobo Field UNM has posted a .975 fielding percentage and a 4.59 staff ERA. Hobie McClain (1.65) and Drew Bridges (1.76) both have ERAs under 2.00, and if you remove a seven-run outlier for Josh Walker, he has been spectacular as well (1.96 ERA in 18.1 innings).
The pitching staff has only allowed 98 runs since moving from Isotopes Park, and opponents are just hitting .277 against Lobo pitching.
UNM's play has allowed it to open a three-game lead in the MW standings over second-place UNLV. The Rebels visit Lobo Field this weekend for a key three-game set.
Baseball America's full rankings are available here.