Nov. 24, 2009
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Head Lobo baseball coach Ray Birmingham and his staff have finalized the 2010 roster. The Lobos will feature 35 student-athletes with depth at every position in the field and in every spot in the lineup. Birmingham and company have assembled some of the top talent from around the nation and have set their sights on the Mountain West Conference Championship and the program's first trip to the NCAA Tournament in over 40 years.
"The 2010 roster has as much potential as any time in history of Lobo baseball," said Birmingham. "It's up to myself and my coaching staff to harvest that talent and make this team as good as possible. New Mexico baseball fans are going to see very good athletes and a great offense. Fans will see a lot more arm strength from the pitching staff and 12 guys that can reach the mid 90's. This team will face one of the hardest schedules in team history but it's going to make us better as we move closer to becoming one of the elite teams in the country."
The Lobo pitching staff will feature some of the best talent in the southwest. New Mexico returns four-game winner Rudy Jaramillo, a sophomore who posted an ERA of 5.73. Also returning to a true starting role for the first time since the 2008 season is senior Willy Kesler. Kesler had Tommy John surgery on May 15, 2008 but is now 100 percent and looks to be the Lobos' Friday night arm. Also returning for the Lobos is senior Kenny Toves (2-0, 25 K) senior Edwin Carl (2-1, 30 K), senior Travis Dirk (4-2, 35 K) and sophomore Gabe Aguilar (2-1, 1.98 ERA).
New Mexico has added sophomore transfer Eric Baalman, junior transfers Zack Cleveland, Mike Lachapelle and Richard Olson, sophomore transfers Jerome Montoya-Maston and Gera Sanchez and freshmen Oscar Almeida, Steven Florez, Austin House, Bobby Mares, Zak Miller and Jacob Nelson
Returning behind the dish for the Lobos is junior catcher Rafael Nada. Neda is a two-time all-MWC performer earning first-team honors last season and second-team accolades in 2007. Neda was one of four Lobos to hit above .400 last season and finished second on the team with a .416 batting average. He also led the MWC in MWC-only average with a .457.
Although he comes with a list of accolades Neda's job may not be all secured with Mitchell Garver working his way up the ladder. Garver is a freshman from La Cueva high school and had a very good Cherry-Silver series this past fall.
The infield took a major hit with the loss of 2009 MWC Player of the Year Mike Brownstein at second, first-team all-MWC first baseman Kevin Atkinson and team captain Dane Hamilton at third. Those positions will not skip a beat however and will be filled by the next crop of defensive standouts. At third base senior Adam Courcha will find a home in the infield after spending time in centerfield and behind the plate. Courcha had a fielding percentage of .966 and hit .313 on the season. Senior Daniel Gonzales will return at shortstop and posted a .964 fielding percentage last season while hitting .277. At second will be sophomore Ben Woodchick, who posted a perfect fielding percentage and rolled two double plays while hitting .190 in only 21 at bats behind Brownstein. Senior Justin Howard will take over at first base a position he inherited late in the 2009 season with an injury to Hamilton that moved Atkinson to third. Howard posted a near perfect .987 fielding percentage and committed two errors all season while hitting .309.
Providing infield depth are freshmen Alex Allbritton, Brett Doe and Cody Volker
Returning in center field will be fifth-year senior Max Willet. Willett is a three-year starter in center field and committed no errors in the entire 2009 season. Willett was also seventh on the team in batting average with .355 with 46 RBI. In left field, will be senior Ryan Honeycutt. Honeycutt was one of four Lobos to hit over .400 and finished the season .406. In right field will be Cameron Smith who posted a .909 fielding percentage and hit .217 on the season.
Others pushing for the a starting spot in the outfield are senior Chris Juarez (.333, 8 RBI), junior transfer Kenny Held and freshman John Michael Twitchell.
The Lobos start 2010 season on the road in Austin, Texas and will face last years College World Series runner-up Texas on Feb. 19. For more information visit www.GoLobos.com.