April 21, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team used a seven-run fifth inning to spark a 12-6 victory over Florida Gulf Coast Saturday night at Isotopes Park in front of 1,568 fans. The win guaranteed the Lobos their seventh-straight weekend series victory, which set a new school record.
“The whole program is moving forward,” senior first baseman Trey Porras said about the consecutive series victories. “We’re building on what we had at the end of last season (when we won the Mountain West tournament) and building on what they had before that and before that. This program as a whole is heading in the right direction.”
Josh Walker struck out six and allowed three runs in five innings to earn his team-leading fifth win of the season.
UNM allowed the light-hitting Eagles to notch 13 hits, but the Lobos pounded out 16 of their own. It is the 21st time in 39 games this season the Lobos have recorded at least 10 hits after managing the feat only 26 times in 61 games last season.
“Everybody is really working hard on their swing right now,” Porras said. “The great thing right now is that we can have anybody up at any time … and we feel like they’re going to come through and get the job done.
“When you feel like that you know that you’re on a roll and that everyone is feeling good.”
For the second-straight game the Lobos fell behind early, this time by a score of 2-0 in the second inning. But they scored two runs in both the second and third innings to take a 4-3 lead. The Eagles scored once in the fifth to close the gap to 4-3, but the Lobos effectively put the game out of reach by sending 11 men to the plate and scoring seven runs in their half of the frame.
DJ Peterson got the inning started with a double deep up the hill in center field. An infield single by Ryan Padilla put runners on the corners for Josh Melendez, who was making his first start since Apr. 15 against San Diego State.
Melendez smashed a 1-1 pitch deep to left-center. He missed a home run by inches as the ball hit the top of the fence. He ended on third with his Mountain West-leading sixth triple as both Peterson and Padilla scored with ease. With the infield drawn in, Porras singled between first and second to knock home Melendez and increase the lead to 7-3.
Kyle Stiner walked one batter later, and Porras advanced to third on a throwing error by FGCU. Alex Real followed with a sacrifice fly to knock him home. Back-to-back singles by Mitchell Garver and Ben Woodchick scored Stiner and put runners on first and second for Peterson’s second at bat of the inning.
Peterson hit a towering popup behind first base that FGCU first basemen Sean Dwyer dropped. This allowed both Garver and Woodchick to score and increase the lead to 11-3.
“I was really happy with Estrella when he came in,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. “His first two pitches were 55 feet and in the dirt. He was a little nervous, but I said just keep it simple, just you and the mitt, and he did. It was a quick three outs (in the ninth).”
Porras, Garver and Padilla each finished with three hits for the Lobos. Padilla tied a career-high with three runs scored and Porras set a new career-high with three RBI, all of which came in the first three innings as the Lobos were struggling to take the lead.
“It’s an old baseball cliché that hitting’s contagious, but it’s true,” Porras said. “It sounds corny but it’s true. It’s a good feeling that we have right now going through the clubhouse.”
Birmingham is thrilled with the way the Lobos are playing, and especially hitting, right now.
“Trey Porras is really growing into a hitter,” he said. “And the biggest thing is when we were struggling early in the season guys weren’t buying in. They were doing things their way. Now they’re buying in and paying attention.”
The Lobos have not just been beating up on lightweights during their streak either. They started the streak with a sweep of then-No. 22 and previously undefeated Gonzaga. They also took two of three from No. 19 TCU at Isotopes Park from Mar. 23-25 for their first-ever home series win over the Horned Frogs. From Mar. 30 – Apr. 1 they took two of three from the 2008 national champions, the Fresno State Bulldogs.
UNM also won three Mountain West series during the streak. They swept San Diego State at Isotopes Park from Mar. 16-18, they scored 36 runs as they took two of three at Air Force from Apr. 5-7, and they took two of three at San Diego State Apr. 13-15. Their next opportunity will be next weekend when Mountain West foe UNLV comes to Albuquerque for a three-game set.
But first the Lobos will go for the sweep of the Eagles in the series finale and their fifth-straight win at noon on Sunday. Senior Gera Sanchez will get the start for UNM. Fans can listen to the game live on ESPN 101.7 The Team.