March 25, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team used four-run outbursts in both the first and second innings Sunday to defeat No. 19 TCU 12-7 in front of 1,825 fans at Isotopes Park. The win gave the Lobos their first-ever series win at home against the Horned Frogs.
Every Lobo starter reached base by the end of the second inning, and each recorded at least one hit in the game. Kyle Stiner led the way by tying a career-high with four hits against the Horned Frogs.
Four different players had at least two RBIs, with freshman Chris Nunez leading the way with a career-high three. Nunez reached base four times and had his first two collegiate hits.
“I don’t play every day, so every chance I get I try to go out there and do my best,” Nunez said. “Thankfully, today I did my best.”
After TCU scored a run in the top of the first without the benefit of a hit, Ben Woodchick set the standard for the Lobos in the bottom half of the frame. After falling behind in the count 1-2, he fouled off six-straight pitches as part of a 13-pitch at bat before singling up the middle.
“(That at bat) set the tone for the rest of the game,” Stiner said. “All the guys were excited to be up there and had confidence at the plate.”
Woodchick’s single was the first of five-straight hits for the Lobos to start the game. Stiner followed with a bunt single, sending Woodchick to second. DJ Peterson drove home Woodchick with a single to left. A bunt single by Josh Melendez loaded the bases for freshman and Albuquerque-native Ryan Padilla.
Padilla laced a 2-2 pitch to right to drive home Stiner and Peterson. It was one of six two-strike hits for the Lobos on the day. Two batters later Nunez snapped an 0-for-8 streak to start his career with a double down the right-field line that drove home Melendez.
“It’s just a team effort,” Nunez said. “Once we string a couple hits together it just goes on and on.”
UNM struck back for four more in the second. With one out Stiner reached on another bunt single and scored on a double deep up the hill in center field off the bat of Peterson. Melendez walked and Padilla singled to left, loading the bases. Mitchell Garver followed and reached on a fielder’s choice as Peterson was thrown out at home.
Freshman Alex Real then singled to right on a 1-2 pitch to drive home Melendez and Padilla. After Nunez was hit by a pitch, Alex Allbritton singled to right to knock home Garver and increase the Lobos’ lead to 8-1.
“We were ready to get back at them,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said.
TCU scored once in the third and twice in the fifth to cut the lead to 8-4, but the Lobos responded by scoring the next four runs to put the game out of reach.
Nunez led off the fifth with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Allbritton. Woodchick grounded out to second, which sent Nunez to third. He then scored on a passed ball by TCU’s Josh Elander.
Nunez wasn’t finished, however. Padilla and Garver led off the sixth with back-to-back singles. A walk by pinch hitter Trey Porras loaded the bases, and Nunez came through again, this time with a single to right that knocked in Padilla and Garver.
“I’ve been working hard in (batting practice) before the games and in practice, and I finally got my chance to go out there and do it,” Nunez said. “And it all paid off.”
“How about the Nunez kid,” Birmingham said. “How about the Padilla kid? New Mexico boys. That’s pretty cool. There’s a lot of great kids on this team, and they’re pushing the rock in the same direction.”
The Lobos’ final run came in the seventh. Stiner led off with a double down the left field line. Peterson sent him to third with a fly out to deep right, and Melendez knocked him home with a sacrifice fly to almost the exact same position as Peterson’s out.
Alexis Garza earned his second win of the season by pitching two and two-third effective innings out of the bullpen.
Not only was this the first-ever series win against TCU for the Lobos in Albuquerque, but it was also UNM’s first series win of any kind against the Horned Frogs since winning two-of-three in Forth Worth, Texas, from March 20-22, 2008.
“It was nice to have them come to our place and show them what Lobo baseball is all about,” Stiner said.
“It was a big series for us,” Birmingham said. “That’s TCU. That’s a big team. It’s what this program’s growing to be.”
It also was the third-straight series win for the Lobos. It is the first time the Lobos have won three series in a row since defeating San Diego State, UNLV, and BYU between March 23 and April 10, 2010.
The Lobos now have a 5-1 record in the Mountain West Conference, good enough for sole possession of first place.
“It’s good to have a great start,” Stiner said.
The Lobos will look to win their fourth-straight series when Stephen F. Austin comes to Albuquerque for a two-game set starting Tuesday at 6 p.m. MT at Isotopes Park.
“We’re getting into a stretch now that’s going to be very, very tough,” Birmingham said. “But, we’re not worried about it. We’re playing one game at a time.”