Lobo Baseball Hosts No. 8/8 TCU For First Place in the Mountain West
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  05/04/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

May 4, 2010

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The University of New Mexico Lobo baseball team will battle the No. 8/8 TCU Horned Frogs for first place in the Mountain West Conference this Friday-Sunday, May 7-9 at Isotopes Park. The Horned Frogs (34-9, 14-3 MWC) have a two-game lead over the Lobos (30-15, 12-5). New Mexico needs to sweep the Horned Frogs to have a shot at the all-important No. 1 seed in the 2010 Mountain West Conference Tournament.

Saturday's game will be Pack The Park. All tickets will be $2 and the first 500 fans through the turnstiles will get a Lobo water bottle courtesy of Farmer's Insurance.

All three games will be broadcast live on 101.7 FM The TEAM. Scott Galetti and former Lobo baseball player Rick Ronquillo (1978-83) will call the action live from Isotopes Park.

New Mexico will host Delaware State on May 14-16 at Lobo Field. On Saturday, May 15 Lobo baseball will honor its nine seniors for their hardwork and dedication to the University of New Mexico. Seniors Adam Courcha, Edwin Carl, Daniel Gonzalez, Justin Howard, Chris Juarez, Willy Kesler, Jason Oatman, Cameron Smith and Max Willett will be honored before the game.


• The Horned Frogs are 34-9 on the season, have won eight of their last 10 and are 14-5 on the road. TCU has won nine-straight conference games. Their last MWC loss was a 3-1 decision to San Diego State in Fort Worth, Texas on April 3.

• TCU is coached by Jim Schlossnagle, who is in his sixth year coaching the Horned Frogs with a 282-129 (.686) record. Coach Schlossnagle has an overall record of 359-176 (.671) in eight seasons as a head coach.

• The Horned Frogs return six players with starting experience, 19 letterwinners and nine starting pitchers from last year's squad.

• TCU is led at the plate by sophomore outfielder Jason Coats, who is hitting .386 on the season. Coats is ranked second in the MWC in slugging percentage (.712), runs scored (50) and hits (71) and ranked fourth in batting average at a .386 clip.

• The Horned Frogs are ranked second in the league, hitting .336 as a team.

• TCU is led on the mound by junior right-handed pitcher Steven Maxwell, who is 7-0 on the season and is ranked second in the MWC with an ERA of 2.61. Maxwell is also ranked third in opposing-batting average (.236), sixth in strikeouts (55) and second in wins (7).

• TCU is ranked first in the MWC with a 3.76 ERA as a staff.

• The Lobos will likely face freshman left-hander Matt Purke on Friday, sophomore right-hander Kyle Winkler on Saturday and Maxwell on Sunday. Purke leads the MWC with eight wins and is undefeated this season. The 1st round draft pick of the Texas Rangers out of high school is ranked ninth with a 3.96 ERA. He also is ranked second in the MWC with 76 strikeouts. Winkler is 7-0 on the season and is ranked seventh in the conference with a 3.69 ERA. He is also ranked 10th with 50 strikeouts.


TCU holds a 29-11 series advantage over New Mexico. The Horned Frogs are 12-3 in Albuquerque and have won five straight. The Lobos last victory over TCU was a 3-2 decision on May 22, 2008 in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.


As a team the Lobos are ranked fifth in the nation with a .356 batting average, fourth with 597 hits and tied for sixth with 128 doubles. The Lobos are tied for 16th in the nation with 18 triples on the season.

Senior Justin Howard leads the nation with 92 hits, is ranked No. 9 with a .449 batting average and is tied for fifth with 22 doubles. Senior Chris Juarez is ranked No. 26 with a .430 batting average.


Senior Willy Kesler was a bright star under the lights of Tony Gwynn Stadium and on television sets across the nation as he threw eight shutout innings in a 14-1 win over San Diego State on May 1. Kesler allowed only two hits and had seven strikeouts.


Senior Justin Howard tied a school record with four doubles in a single game against San Diego State on May 2. Howard went 5-for-5, hitting four consecutive doubles in his first four at-bats. He also had four RBIs.


Junior All-America candidate Rafael Neda went 11-for-17, hitting .647 in four games last week. Neda improved his batting average 29 points to .375 over the four-game span. He hit two doubles, his ninth and tenth home runs and drove in 11 RBIs. Neda went 3-for-3 against Texas Tech with three RBIs and one double. In a three-game series against San Diego State on April 30 - May 2, Neda went 8-for-14 (.571) with nine RBIs, one double and two home runs. In game-three Neda drove in a career-high six RBIs.


Head coach Ray Birmingham earned his 100th win as Lobo baseball's skipper. Coach Birmingham picked up win No. 100 on national television at New Mexico in a 14-1 victory over San Diego State on May 1. Earlier this season, Birmingham earned his 900th win as a head coach in a 15-14 extra-innings win over Louisiana Tech in game one of a doubleheader on March 13. Birmingham has a 101-60 three-year record at the University of New Mexico.


On Friday, April 30 against San Diego State, senior shortstop Daniel Gonzalez made his 100th consecutive start. Since transfering from El Paso Community College in the fall of 2009, Gonzalez found a home as the Lobo shortstop. Coach Birmingham has been quoted as saying, "Watching Daniel Gonzalez play shortstop is like watching Picasso paint."


Senior Justin Howard leads the Lobos in batting average at a .449 clip. Howard also leads the team in on-base percentage (.498), RBIs (56), doubles (22), runs scored (62) and hits (92). Senior Chris Juarez is hitting .430 with 10 doubles and 25 RBIs. Junior All-America candidate Rafael Neda is hitting .375 on the season and is second on the team in RBIs (54).

The Lobo pitching staff is led by junior Kenny Toves, who is 4-1 with a 3.38 ERA. Senior Willy Kesler has a 3.63 ERA, is 4-1 on the season, leads the team in strikeouts with 64 and has two complete games. Junior Richard Olson has an ERA of 3.88 and is 3-3 on the season. Olson is second on the team with 43 strikeouts.


The Lobos lead the Mountain West Conference with a .356 batting average and are tied for the lead with 128 doubles. The Lobo pitching staff is fourth in the conference with a 5.37 ERA and is third in the MWC in strikeouts with 319.

Several Lobo hitters are making their presence known in the MWC rankings. Senior Justin Howard is on top of the Mountain West standings in batting average at a .449 clip. Howard also ranks first in runs scored (62), on-base percentage (.498), hits (92), doubles (22) and RBIs (56). Senior Chris Juarez is second in the conference with a .430 batting average and is tied for sixth in the league with 65 hits. Junior All-America candidate Rafael Neda is ranked sixth in the MWC with a .375 batting average, is tied for second with 46 RBIs, tied for third with 10 home runs and is ranked fifth with 66 hits.

The pitching staff is just as impressive in the MWC rankings. Junior Kenny Toves is ranked fifth with a 3.38 ERA. Senior Willy Kesler is sixth with a 3.63 ERA and is ranked fourth in the conference with 64 strikeouts. Sophomore Gera Sanchez is tied for second in the league in saves with five.

On defense, Howard is ranked first in putouts with 411.


The Lobos are receiving votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association top-30 poll and the USA Today Coaches top-25 poll. For the third time this season, the Lobos are ranked No. 27 in Ping!baseball's top-30 poll.

The Lobos also are ranked No. 34 in the NCAA's latest RPI rankings (May 4). The Lobos are the second-highest ranked Mountain West team. No. 16 TCU and No. 87 San Diego State are the other MWC representatives in the top-100. New Mexico has two victories over No. 5 Texas, No. 58 New Mexico State, No. 76 USC, five wins over No. 87 San Diego State and one win over No. 44 Texas Tech. The Lobos face one more team this season in the top-100, TCU (16).