June 15, 2004
The New Mexico baseball team began a new era in the 2004 season by playing all of its home games in start-of-the-art Isotopes Park, a beautiful facility that seats over 11,000 fans and is home of the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes as well as the Lobos. The Lobos responded to playing in their new park, especially late in the season, with a thrilling race for the Mountain West Conference regular season championship. Although the Lobos (20-10) came up just percentage points short of first-place San Diego State (19-9), UNM placed second in the standings, and received the No. 2 seed in the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas. New Mexico reached the semifinals of the MWC Tournament for the second time in school history and placed third, finishing the season with a 26-29-1 record.
The Lobos featured many fresh faces in 2004 -- 17 newcomers to be exact -- and the inexperience showed early in the season. UNM played one of its toughest non-conference schedules in Coach Alday's tenure, playing 15 games against teams in the RPI top 50. The early portion of the schedule was rated among the top-10 toughest in the nation, and six opponents off UNM's schedule made it to the NCAA Tournament. For the season, UNM played 35 of their 56 games against teams with a winning record, and 17 of those games came against teams either ranked in the Top 25 or receiving votes in the national polls.
The result of the tough schedule and team's youth was a 2-12-1 record after 15 games. The turnaround came March 16 in a hard-fought 4-1 victory over Texas Tech, who entered the game with a 13-5 record and RPI of 20. UNM showed its promise with excellent defense and timely hitting in upsetting the Red Raiders, who would go on to place third in the Big 12. UNM would go 24-17 the rest of the season.
The Lobos rode the momentum from the Texas Tech win into Mountain West Conference play. New Mexico won seven of its 10 MWC series, and started off by taking two of three games from Utah. UNM then lost a home series to San Diego State, but once again, a key mid-week victory -- this time over arch-rival New Mexico State -- propelled the Lobos to win their next four MWC series. After falling at New Mexico State a week earlier and then losing two of three to SDSU, the Lobos matched up against the Aggies March 30 at Isotopes Park. Down 9-3 after five and a half innings, the Lobos exploded for 10 runs in the bottom of the sixth -- keyed by a Joe Salas grand slam -- to take over the game. The offensive fireworks continued for both teams, but the Lobos held on for the 17-13 victory, marking their biggest comeback win of the season.
UNM then went on its longest winning streak of the season after sweeping BYU (April 1-3) for the first time in program history. The Lobos' four-game streak was halted with two losses at No. 13 Nebraska, but the wins in conference kept coming with another series win at Utah.
The Lobos shattered the record books the following weekend (April 16-18) with a sweep at Air Force, erupting for 59 runs, 63 hits and 17 home runs in the three games. The Lobos scored a school and Mountain West record 31 runs in a 31-11 rout on April 17, and also set MWC single-game records for hits (29), RBI (28) and total bases (53) in the game. Joe Salas tied a league and school mark with four doubles in the contest to go along with five hits. On April 18, UNM hit an MWC record eight homers, which was also second most in school history (record: 10), in the 18-6 win. Daniel Stovall earned National Co-Hitter of the Week and MWC Player of the Week honors after batting 12-for-15 in the series (.800) with three homers and seven RBI.
The good fortunes continued for UNM as it vaulted into first place in the MWC standings with a convincing series win at UNLV (April 23-25). The Rebels escaped with a 5-4 win in the series opener, but the Lobos pounded UNLV 11-4 in game two and 12-4 in game three to take a 1/2-game lead mid-way through the MWC race.
The Lobos didn't last in first place very long, however, as they fell in two out of three games at San Diego State (April 30-May 2) on their next trip. They also took a series loss at BYU (May 6-8) the next weekend.
New Mexico turned it back around with another three-game sweep of Air Force (May 14-16), putting the Lobos right back into MWC contention with only one series left in the season -- and it came against league-leading UNLV at Isotopes Park. The Lobos entered the showdown series with a chance to capture their second-ever MWC crown. If the Lobos swept the Rebels, they would be conference champs -- but if they only took two out of three, they would need help from Utah, who needed to defeat San Diego State just once in their three-game series in Salt Lake City.
With the stage for the conference title set, the Lobos struck first, outlasting the Rebels in the series opener, 14-12. UNM's hopes for an outright title were dashed with a 13-4 loss in game two of the series, but they could still claim a share of the title and a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a win in the finale and a San Diego State loss.
New Mexico definitely supplied the dramatics in the series finale. With title hopes looking slim, the Lobos entered the bottom of the ninth inning trailing UNLV, 4-1. No problem.
The Lobos ensued with a thrilling four-run rally on five hits, leading the Lobo team to a joyous on-field celebration after the comeback win. Daniel Stovall sparked the rally, blasting the first pitch of the inning deep to right-center field for a solo homer -- and that was just the beginning. UNM tallied three consecutive hits, and tied the game at 4 with a sacrifice fly. With one out, runners on the corners, and the infield in, Matt Young hit a shot off the glove of Rebel second baseman Ryan Kowalski to drive Ryan Barba in for the game-winning run.
Unfortunately, Utah didn't do its part in the Lobo conference-championship equation, as the Aztecs swept the Utes, giving SDSU the outright conference title with a 19-9 record, percentage points ahead of UNM at 20-10.
The Lobos headed to Las Vegas as the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and earned a first-round bye. In the second round, UNM had to face third-seeded UNLV for the fourth consecutive game. Although the Lobos took the season series from the Rebels, 4-2, UNLV protected its home field in the 15-9 victory. The Rebels broke a 9-9 tie in the top of the ninth inning with six runs to put the game away. New Mexico bounced back later that night with a 23-2 thrashing of Air Force, setting an MWC Tournament record with 25 hits.
UNM won its second game on the last at-bat in less than a week with a 9-8 comeback triumph over Utah to advance to the tournament semifinals. Down 8-5 in the eighth, the Lobos hit two solo homers to cut the margin to 8-7 heading into the last frame. In the ninth, UNM tied the game, and then loaded the bases with two outs. Up to the plate stepped freshman Jay Russell, who calmly nailed a single through the right side of the infield for the game-winning hit. New Mexico's season came to a close with a 24-8 loss to San Diego State in the semifinals.
The Lobos' late season run at the conference championship was fueled by several talented players. Four Lobos (Joe Salas, Josh Mader, Daniel Stovall, Matt Young) were named to the All-Mountain West team, five Lobos (Cooper Eddy, Jason Fernandez, Josh Mader, Daniel Stovall, Matt Young) earned Mountain West Player of the Week honors, Sean Murray garnered Academic All-America accolades, and Stovall was named a Freshman All-American. Stovall was also named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Co-Hitter of the Week April 19.
Salas walks away from UNM with his name littered all over the Lobo record book. Salas ranks tied for third all-time at UNM in homers (38), third in doubles (66) and fourth in RBI (188). On the mound, he is second all-time with 11 saves.
Young became the fifth player in New Mexico history to record 200 hits and 200 runs for his career. He is second all-time at UNM with 133 walks and fifth in runs with 200. Young tallied 12 triples in 2004, the most of any player in Division I; it also tied him for second most in a UNM season. His 17 career triples are seventh most in UNM history.
Three Lobos were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June. Senior Joe Salas was the first Lobo taken, as the Pirates drafted him in the 24th round. Junior Josh Mader was selected in the 29th round by the Philadelphia Phillies and junior Cooper Eddy was drafted in the 36th round by the Boston Red Sox. Both Mader and Eddy signed professional contracts and will not return to UNM next season. Mader was second in the Mountain West with a .395 batting average to go along with 10 homers and a team-best 56 RBI, while Eddy led the team with 60 strikeouts.
Although Mader and Eddy will be missed, the Lobos return practically their whole lineup and pitching staff in 2005, including multiple letterwinners Matt Young, Jeff Grady, Kevin Letz, Ryan Barba, Darren Coltrinari and A.J. Spitaleri. The Lobos, which featured five freshmen and sophomores in their starting lineup at the end of the season, came within percentage points of the school's sixth conference championship. With a strong recruiting class arriving in Albuquerque for next season, the team will be even more talented - and experienced - as they prepare for another run at the Mountain West Conference title.
DID YOU KNOW???:
-- The Lobos set a program attendance record by averaging 1,118 fans per game (26,833 total, 24 games). They also set the single-game attendance record with 5,786 fans showing up for "Pack the Park Night" March 27 vs. San Diego State.
-- The Lobos swept BYU for the first time in program history in 2004. UNM took all three games against the Cougars April 1-3 at Isotopes Park.
-- UNM's biggest comeback victory of the season was a 17-13 win over New Mexico State March 30 at Isotopes Park. Down 9-3 after five and a half innings, UNM exploded for 10 runs in the bottom of the sixth en route to scoring 17 runs.
-- After starting 2-12-1, the Lobos went 24-17 the remainder of the season
-- The Lobos won seven of their 10 Mountain West Conference series
-- Senior Sean Murray became the fifth Lobo in program history to earn Academic All-America honors
-- Daniel Stovall became the fourth Lobo in program history to earn Freshman All-America accolades
THREE LOBOS SELECTED IN MLB FIRST-YEAR PLAYER DRAFT: Three Lobos were selected on the second and final day of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Senior Joe Salas (Albuquerque, N.M./Rio Grande High School) was the first Lobo selected, drafted in the 24th round (No. 712 overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Junior Josh Mader (Albuquerque, N.M./Cibola High School) was selected in the 29th round (No. 872 overall) by the Philadelphia Phillies and junior Cooper Eddy (West Des Moines, Iowa) was taken by the Boston Red Sox in the 36th round (No. 1,085 overall).
Salas, who was drafted as a pitcher, finished second all-time at New Mexico with 11 saves. The lefty posted a 4-2 record in 2004 and had a 5.23 ERA while striking out 53 batters in 43.0 innings of work. The two-time All-Mountain West selection was also a powerful hitter at the plate, walking away from UNM third all-time in homers with 38, third in doubles with 66 and fourth in RBI with 188.
Mader, a shortstop, earned All-Mountain West honors this season for the second time in his career after batting .395 with 10 homers and 56 RBI. He was named Mountain West Player of the Week twice this spring in addition to being named to the All-Mountain West Tournament Team.
Eddy, a right-hander who transferred to UNM from Tennessee Tech, was 5-4 with a 6.24 ERA in his first season at New Mexico. He led the team with 60 strikeouts in 88.0 innings pitched and garnered Mountain West Pitcher of the Week accolades twice this season.
This marks the 12th straight year that at least one Lobo has been selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Four players that signed National Letter's of Intent to play for UNM in 2004-05 were drafted:
-- Eric Ridener - RHP - Coral Springs, Fla. (Pittsburgh Pirates, 8th round, No. 232 overall)
-- Brian Flores - LHP - Carlsbad, N.M. (Chicago White Sox, 21st round, No. 629 overall)
-- Kyle Blanks - 1B - Edgewood, N.M. (San Diego Padres, 42nd round, No. 1,241 overall)
-- Tyler Cales - RHP - San Antonio, Texas (Cincinnati Reds, 49th round, No. 1,449 overall)
-- Matt Young became the fifth player in New Mexico history to record 200 hits and 200 runs for his career. Young is second all-time at UNM with 133 walks and fifth in runs with 200. He tallied 12 triples in 2004, the most of any player in Division I, which ties for second most in a UNM season. His 17 career triples are seventh most in UNM history.
-- Joe Salas walks away from UNM with his name littered all over the record book. Salas ranks tied for third all-time at UNM in homers (38), third in doubles (66) and fourth in RBI (188). On the mound, Salas is second all-time with 11 saves.
AROUND THE HORN -
OFFENSIVELY: The Lobos hit .326 as a team (11th in the nation) and averaged 7.8 runs per game (22nd in the nation). UNM hit 75 homers as a team, which ranked fourth best all-time in a UNM season and led the Mountain West.
DEFENSIVELY: The Lobos committed 71 errors for a .967 fielding percentage, which led the Mountain West.
PITCHING: UNM's staff ERA was 6.85 (fourth in the MWC). The starter's ERA was 6.46 compared to the bullpen's 7.45.
NATIONALLY SPEAKING: Where the Lobos ranked among the national leaders...
TEAM... BATTING AVERAGE - 11th (.326) SCORING - 22nd (7.8 runs per game) HOME RUNS - 12th (1.34 per game) TRIPLES - 9th (0.46 per game) SLUGGING PERCENTAGE - 10th (.513)
INDIVIDUALLY... BATTING AVERAGE - Josh Mader - 36th (.395); Matt Young - 74th (.381) TRIPLES - Matt Young - 2nd (0.21 per game) RBI - Josh Mader - 90th (1.04 per game) RUNS - Matt Young - 65th (1.07 per game)
PLAYER NOTES -
PUT ME IN COACH - YOUNG IN CENTER FIELD: Junior Matt Young was the starting center fielder this season for the Lobos after two years in left. Young, the team's leadoff hitter and offensive spark, was UNM's leader in runs (60) and on-base percentage (.462), and his 12 triples were the most in the nation (second per game - 0.21). He batted an impressive .517 (30-for-58) with runners in scoring position, which led the Mountain West. Young earned All-Mountain West honors in 2004 for the second time in his career.
The fiery and competitive Young, whose .381 average was third in the MWC, also moved up the career charts at New Mexico in his third year. He collected his 200th career hit in UNM's win over Utah April 9 and scored his 200th run May 28 vs. San Diego State, becoming just the fifth player in school history to reach the 200-run and 200-hit plateau.
Young was named the Mountain West Player of the Week Feb. 23 after an impressive opening weekend at the Baseball Fiesta Tournament in which he went 6-for-11 with two triples, four RBI and six runs. He was also named to the Aggie Classic All-Tournament Team. In one of his best career performances at the plate, Young went 4-for-6 with a career-high six RBI in UNM's win over New Mexico State March 30, including a two-run homer.
A dynamic defensive player, Young owned a near-perfect fielding percentage (.993) and made some spectacular plays in center field this season.
The Murphy, Texas, native put together a .466 on-base percentage and led the MWC in walks (54) and runs (76) in 2003 while batting .320. Young is second all-time in the UNM record books with 133 career walks, fifth with 200 career runs and seventh with 17 triples.
MADER AN ALL-MOUNTAIN SELECTON, DRAFTED BY PHILADELPHIA: Junior shortstop Josh Mader earned All-Mountain West honors for the second time in his career after leading the team with a .395 batting average (36th in the nation; second in the MWC) and 56 RBI. He was rewarded by the Philadelphia Phillies, as they drafted him in the 29th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Mader was also an honorable mention All-America selection by CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
Mader exits UNM after three years with a .379 career batting average, which is eighth best all-time in school history. He collected 259 hits, 143 runs, 34 doubles, 17 homers and 144 RBI in 155 games.
He was named the MWC Player of the Week April 12 after batting .409 with three homers, and in UNM's win over Utah that same week, he went 3-for-5 with four RBI, including two homers in one inning. He garnered MWC Co-Player of the Week honors May 24 after hitting 4-for-4 with a career-high six RBI - including a grand slam - in New Mexico's 14-12 victory over UNLV May 20.
Mader was named to the Mountain West All-Tournament Team by batting .619 (13-for-21) with two homers and six RBI in UNM's four games.
MURRAY NAMED MWC MALE STUDENT-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Senior right-fielder Sean Murray, one of two co-captains on this year's team, batted .333 with 34 RBI in his last season. A career .345 hitter, Murray also started at first base, left field and right field for the Lobos in 2004.
An outstanding student off the field, Murray was recently one of 77 student nationwide to earn the prestigious Truman Scholarship for his 4.20 GPA in Mechanical Engineering. He also became the fifth Lobo in program history to earn Academic All-America honors. He was honored by the Mountain West Conference as he was named the MWC Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
BARBA SOLID AT SECOND: Sophomore Ryan Barba put together another productive offensive season from second base, typically a non-power position. Barba hit .346 with seven homers and 37 RBI to go along with 49 runs. In league play, he hit .381.
Barba drove in five runs in one game for the third time in his career in the first Air Force series, going 5-for-7 with a homer, five RBI and four runs. He tied his career high with a five RBI performance in UNM's 6-3 win over UCSB on March 7, blasting a grand slam in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie and propel the Lobos to victory. He earned all-tournament honors at the Aggie Classic with a .368 average in the six games.
SALAS DOES DOUBLE DUTY: Senior Joe Salas walks away from UNM with his name littered all over the record book. Salas ranks tied for third all-time at UNM in homers (38), third in doubles (66) and fourth in RBI (188). On the mound, Salas is second all-time with 11 saves.
Salas, who collected a 4-2 record on the mound, had 53 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched, and his 31 appearances were second in the MWC. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected the lefty in the 24th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Offensively, he broke out in 2003 with 16 homers and 56 RBI in addition to a .366 batting average to earn first-team All-MWC honors. The primary designated hitter in the lineup, Salas had 12 homers and 55 RBI in 2004 to garner All-MWC accolades for the second straight season.
Salas tied a school and Mountain West record with four doubles at Air Force on April 17, a game in which he went 5-for-6 with five runs and three RBI.
FERNANDEZ LEADS TEAM IN VICTORIES: Right-hander Jason Fernandez led the team with seven victories on the mound this season and was 6-3 in MWC games. Fernandez led the league in conference games with 69.2 innings pitched; overall, he fired a team-best 94.0 innings.
The junior was named the MWC Pitcher of the Week March 1 after firing a six-hit complete game in UNM's 3-1 win over Arkansas Feb. 27. Fernandez limited the Razorbacks, who advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals, to one run and only eight base runners. He threw his second complete game in a win over BYU April 1.
STOVALL NAMED FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICAN: Freshman first baseman Daniel Stovall was an easy selection for the All-Mountain West team after a sensational freshman season. He also became just the fourth Lobo in school history to be named a Freshman All-American. Stovall tied for the team lead in homers with 12, drove in 34 runs, and compiled a .347 batting average.
Stovall was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Co-Hitter of the Week April 19 after exploding for 12 hits, three homers, three doubles and seven RBI in the first Air Force series. In the second Air Force series, he continued his hot hitting against the Falcons, blasting three more homers.
Stovall provided several clutch hits in 2004. On April 3 against BYU, he broke an 8-8 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-out, bases-loaded single that drove in two runs in UNM's 10-8 win. In the last game of the regular season, Stovall blasted a first-pitch solo homer to lead off the bottom of the ninth, sparking a four-run rally in the Lobos' 5-4 comeback win over UNLV. Stovall's most explosive day at the plate was at Air Force on April 17, as he went 5-for-6 with five RBI, two homers and two runs scored.
Yabba, DABBA, Doo: Freshman right fielder Chris Dabbs earned his way into the starting lineup the second half of the season with strong hitting at the plate. Dabbs drove in a season-high four RBI April 24 at UNLV to go along with three runs scored and a three-run homer. On May 6 at BYU, he went 3-for-4 with three runs and a two-run homer. The Spring Branch, Texas, native, who was also recruited by several schools (including Texas A&M and Oklahoma) to play football, hit .305 with four homers and 17 RBI.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Freshman Matt Foote worked his way in becoming the starting third baseman late in the season with a solid glove and timely hitting. Foote, whose father played at UNM from 1976-80 and currently broadcasts Lobo games, led the team in conference games with a .429 batting average. In his 19 MWC games, Foote also hit an astounding .619 (13-for-21) with runners in scoring position. Overall, he batted .333 average with 19 RBI.
EDDY NAMED MOUNTAIN WEST PITCHER OF THE WEEK TWICE; DRAFTED BY RED SOX: Junior right-hander Cooper Eddy earned Mountain West Pitcher of the Week honors twice this season. Overall, he was 5-4 with a 6.24 ERA. Eddy was drafted in the 36th round of the MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox.
On March 16, Eddy limited a powerful Texas Tech offense to one run on four hits in seven innings of work, and for his efforts, he earned his second MWC Pitcher of the Week accolade of the season. In his first win of the season against UCSB, Eddy fanned seven Gauchos and only allowed one walk in a seven-hit complete-game effort to earn Mountain West Pitcher of the Week honors March 8.
DAZZLING D-RAY: Freshman lefty Danny Ray Herrera kept hitters off-balance all season with an array of off-speed pitches and deceptive speed. While only compiling a 4-7 record, Herrera kept the Lobos in almost every game he pitched - in fact, four of his seven losses were in one-run games.
In perhaps his most clutch performance, he threw seven innings, struck out five, and didn't allow an earned run (two unearned) in a 2-1 loss at No. 14 Texas A&M in just his second career start.
He picked up his first collegiate victory March 27 against San Diego State, and in his next outing, retired his first 18 batters in six perfect innings in UNM's 1-0 win over BYU. He fanned a season-best nine in a win at Air Force April 17.
SPIT THIS: Sophomore catcher A.J. Spitaleri was third on the team with a .361 batting average to go along with five homers and 17 RBI. A.J. was on fire in the first Air Force series, batting 7-for-9 with five runs, two homers and three RBI in his two games of action.
Spitaleri is batting .350 in his two years thus far at UNM. He tied a career high with four hits at San Diego State May 2, going 4-for-6 with two homers, three RBI and three runs scored. The native of Raytown, Mo., hit .382 in Mountain West games.