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Lobos Kick Off 89th Season At New Mexico State
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/06/2006
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 6, 2006

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LET'S GET IT STARTED: The New Mexico baseball team opens the 2006 season on the road Tuesday night at I-25 rival New Mexico State. The Lobos have opened five of the last six seasons on the road and 15 of the last 16, dating back to 1990. In this decade, UNM has posted a 1-4 record in season-opening games on the road. They have opened the season six times in their 88 years of competition with New Mexico State, twice in Albuquerque and four times in Las Cruces. The Lobos are 2-2 in those games at NMSU and 1-1 in Albuquerque. The first season-opening match vs. the Aggies came on March 7, 1969 in Las Cruces, resulting in a 14-3 UNM win. The last opener was a 12-11 NMSU win at home on Feb. 2, 2001.

UNM VS. NMSU, THE SERIES: UNM holds a 139-71 series lead over NMSU. Excluding the 23 games which sites are unknown, UNM is 52-42 at Las Cruces, 76-23 in Albuquerque and 0-2 at neutral locations. In the 21st century, the Lobos are 13-17 overall against the Aggies. They are 9-5 in Albuquerque and 4-12 in Las Cruces. The series split last season with UNM winning all three contests at Isotopes Park while NMSU rebounded with a three-game sweep at Askew Field. Head coach Rich Alday is 34-36 in his career against New Mexico State, going 21-11 at home, 13-23 away and 0-2 at neutral locations.

SCOUTING NEW MEXICO STATE: New Mexico State opened the season last weekend with a three-game series against Mountain West Conference member Utah.The Aggies took game one, 4-1, and game two, 12-0. Utah stopped the sweep with a 21-9 win in game three. Aggie first baseman Luke Hopkins led the team, going 4-for-8 with three home runs, five runs score, six walks and nine RBI. Outfielder Mark Montgomery produced the best batting average on the weekend, going 3-for-5 with four runs scored. Catcher Adam Harvey and shortstop Abe Aguirre heavily contributed to NMSU's success, going 4-for-10 with three runs scored and 4-for-11 with two runs scored, respectively.

Tyler Sturdevant and Beto Romo earned the wins in relief for New Mexico State. Romo won game one on a two-hit, four inning performace. Jason Conner started the game, throwing five innings for four hits, one run and seven strikeouts. Sturdevant allowed four hits, one walk and six strikeouts in five innings. Brian Gausman started the game with six hits, five runs, two walks and eight strikeouts in four innings.

As a team, the Aggies are hitting .309 while their opponents are hitting .336. They have an ERA of 8.00 while their opponents avg. 8.64

CARLSON AND PACHECO NAMED PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS: Junior Chris Carlson and sophomore Jordan Pacheco were named Louisville Slugger Preseason All-Americans, selected by Collegiate Baseball prior to the 2006 season. Carlson was honored on the first team as a designated hitter while Pacheco made the second team as a second baseman.

The tandem made school history last year as the New Mexico baseball program produced two All-Americans in the same season for jsut the fifth time. Carlson earned first-team accolades as a DH, while Pacheco was chosen to the third team as a second baseman.

Carlson is the first Lobo to garner first-team honors since Travis Young in 1996. The Topeka, Kan., native, who played his first season for UNM in 2005 after transferring from Kansas State, also became just the third player in program history to earn All-America and Academic All-America honors in the same season (Travis Young, 1996; Dusty Young, 2003). He was named a second-team Academic All-American earlier this week for his 3.80 GPA in General Management.

On the field, Carlson stepped right into the heart of the Lobo order and made an immediate impact, establishing himself as one of the top sluggers in the nation. He led the Mountain West Conference in runs (66), slugging (.764) and walks (38), and was ranked in the top five in batting (.395), on-base percentage (.478), hits (87), doubles (24), homers (15) and total bases (168). Carlson, the Mountain West Player of the Week on March 14, was also named to the All-MWC and All-MWC Tournament teams this season.

With his third-team selection, Pacheco becames the first freshman in UNM history to garner All-America honors. A product of Albuquerque's La Cueva High School, the second baseman had an outstanding season in his first year as Lobo, ranking among the MWC leaders in batting (.408), homers (15), runs (65) and hits (95). Pacheco, an All-Mountain West selection, was one of 64 players nationally and one of only two freshmen named to the Dick Hower National Player of the Year watch list.

The Lobos also had two All-Americans in 1980 (Duffy Ryan, Keith Hagman), 1985 (Jim Fregosi, Dean Duane), 1993 (Luke Ogelsby, Mark Gulseth) and 2003 (Chris Alexander, Dusty Young). Carlson and Pacheco are the ninth and 10th All-Americans in UNM head coach Rich Alday's tenure.

PACHECO ON WALLACE WATCH LIST: Sophomore Jordan Pacheco was one of 120 baseball student-athletes on the 2006 Wallace Watch released Monday by the College Baseball Foundation in Lubbock, Texas. The Brooks Wallace Award is presented annually to the national college baseball player of the year. The 2005 winner, third baseman Alex Gordon of Nebraska, has signed to play professionally for the Kansas City Royals.

The Wallace Watch will be trimmed to 12 semi-finalists by late May. Then the selection committee will narrow the list to three finalists following the NCAA Super Regionals at a press conference in Omaha. The finalists, their head coaches, and their parents will be invited to Lubbock for a schedule of special events tied to the award banquet, which will again be nationally televised by Fox Sports Network.

Dedicated to the memory of former Texas Tech shortstop and assistant coach, Wallace was a slick-fielding shortstop at Texas Tech from 1977 to 1980. A 4-year starter, he was named All-Southwest Conference and All-District Six his senior year when he led the Red Raiders to their first-ever appearance in the Southwest Conference Tournament. After playing two years in the Texas Rangers organization, he returned to Texas Tech and served as a graduate assistant and later as an assistant coach. In the summer of 1984 he was diagnosed with cancer and fought the disease courageously until his death on March 24, 1985, at age 27. The Plano, Texas, native was married to the former Sandy Arnold and they had one daughter, Lindsay Ryan.

The selection committee for the Wallace Award is comprised of a national panel of preeminent coaches, sports information directors, former winners and beat media who most closely follow the sport. Screening Committee members will evaluate the candidates and will continue their review throughout the entire baseball season. The list will expand and contract during the regular season and additional Wallace Watch candidates may be added as the season progresses. Voting for the three finalists and the Wallace Award winner will be conducted by confidential balloting, with totals tabulated by the J.W.Anderson & Associates accounting firm in Lubbock.

MWC PRESEASON AWARDS, RANKING ANNOUNCED: The honors continue to roll in for junior Chris Carlson and sophomore Jordan Pacheco as both were named on the All-Mountain West Conference Preseason team today as selected by the coaches in the MWC and select media. Both were tabbed Louisville Slugger Preseason All-Americans last month.

Despite returning seven starters (10 letterwinners overall) and finishing fourth last year, the Lobos were picked to finish fifth out of seven teams in the conference. In its first year of competition in the MWC, TCU has been picked to win the regular season championship. In a vote of the seven MWC head coaches and a select media panel, the Horned Frogs received 11 of a possible 13 first-place votes and 89 points, while San Diego State and UNLV (one first-place nod) each received 66 points to finish tied for second in the poll.

BYU garnered the other first-place vote and tallied 64 points for a fourth-place standing in the poll, while New Mexico (36 points) was fifth, Utah (28 points) sixth and Air Force (15 points) seventh. SDSU placed four players on the preseason all-MWC team, followed by BYU, New Mexico and Utah with two each, and UNLV with one.

TCU, ranked as high as No. 19 in national preseason polls, returns seven starters from last year's NCAA Tournament squad, including NCBWA preseason second team All-American Chad Huffman (Jr., IF), 2005 all-Conference USA Freshman Team selections Matt McGuirk (So., OF) and Andrew Walker (So., C), as well as Sam Demel (So., RHP). The Horned Frogs were 41-20 overall last season (20-10 C-USA) and were co-champions at the Conference USA postseason tournament.

San Diego State returns six starters, including preseason all-league picks Jordan Swaydan (Sr., C), Lance Zawadski (Jr., SS), Quintin Berry (Jr., OF) and 2005 MWC Pitcher of the Year Bruce Billings (Sr., RHP). The Aztecs were 26-35 last season (17-13 MWC) finishing third in the regular season standings. UNLV won its third consecutive MWC Tournament crown last season, and will be led by preseason all-conference selection Ryan Bird (Sr., OF), 2005 All- MWC team member Mike Cruz (Sr., 3B) and Chris Bonnell (Jr., 1B). The Rebels return five starters from last year.

BYU returns five starters from last year's second-place MWC squad that finished 21-9 (39-19-1 overall), including preseason all-conference selections Ben Saylor (Sr., 1B) and Jeff Hiestand (Sr., OF). Utah returns 13 letterwinners, including 2005 All-MWC picks Jay Brossman (Jr., 3B) and Josh Cooper (Sr., RHP), from last year's squad that finished fifth in the MWC (10-20, 19-36 overall). Air Force has six starters back, including returning team batting leader Karl Bolt (Jr., 1B).

The conference season begins April 6-7, with the MWC Championship scheduled for May 23-27 at Earl E. Wilson Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev.

REACHING FOR THE RECORDBOOKS: Junior Daniel Stovall is almost into the UNM career record books. Stovall, with 21 home runs, trails fifth place by 13. Jeff Grady is currently in fifth with 34 career homers. Stovall hit nine bombs in 2005 and 12 in 2004.

Senior Darren Coltrinari and junior Danny Ray Herrera are vying for the same record. Coltrinari has 30 games started in his career while Herrera has 27. The fifth most is 40, held by Barry Kiess (1994-97) and James Vermilyea (2001-03). The record is 47.

SEASON OUTLOOK
There is excitement in head coach Rich Alday's voice as he talks about the 2006 team and the season ahead. Alday heads into his 17th year at the helm of the New Mexico baseball program with 10 letterwinners returning, including seven starters.

"We are really excited about the overall team," Alday said. "I think we are an experienced team both offensively and defensively. Our defense is going to be our strong point and our offense will make things happen."

If the offense replicates its 2005 performance, they will definitely make things happen. The Lobos ranked among the top-10 nationally in five offensive categories, placing second in slugging (.542) and triples (41), fifth in scoring (493) and home runs (82) and ninth in batting (.326). 2005 marked the fourth consecutive year UNM ranked at least in the top-11 in the country in batting.

But what really excites Alday is the defense. Last year the team earned the best fielding percentage in the Mountain West Conference (.964) while consistently starting two freshmen in the infield (Ian Hollick, third base and Jordan Pacheco, second base). The Lobos also had a new shortstop (Ryan Barba) and center fielder (Matt Foote) not to mention they played almost the entire season without their projected starting catcher (A.J. Spitaleri). This season's defense returns all but the catcher and one outfielder and coach Alday expects even more out of them.

"We need to set our goals higher," Alday said. "Last year we were aiming for a .965 fielding percentage and we finished at .964. This season we need to aim for .970."

First-year assistant coach Trent Petrie and second-year assistant coach Ken Jacome have also added to the anticipation of the 2006 season.

"Coach Petrie brings more energy to the program and does a great job recruiting," Alday said.

"Coach Jacome has a year under his belt at this level, which makes a difference after coming from the JUCO level.

"It's going to be a good season," Alday said. "We just need to get better early in the year for us to be successful."

PITCHING
There is a lot of buzz surrounding the group of guys filling out the pitching staff this year. Junior Danny Ray Herrera, the Mountain West Conference's winningest pitcher last season, returns to head up the weekend rotation followed by Nate Melek, a senior transfer from Oklahoma State.

"Danny Ray was possibly the best pitcher in the league last year," Alday said. "He had more wins in MWC game than anyone and beat everyone in the league at least once.

Herrera led the Lobos in wins (8) and innings pitched (93.0) in 2005. He posted a 6.10 ERA, striking out 67 and walking only 33. Herrera threw two complete games including a three-hit, one-run effort against BYU, where he sat down eight.

Melek went 3-1 in 10 appearances, getting five starts at OSU. He held the lowest ERA on the team at 2.96, hurling 27.1 innings. Melek allowed just nine earned runs and struck out 16.

"Nate looked really good at times last year," Alday said. "Hopefully we get him at his best all season."

After that, no spot is solidified in the starting rotation or bullpen. At this point, Alday is guessing Arizona State junior transfer Quentin Andes, senior Darren Coltrinari or freshmen Drew Kendrick or Chase Lankford will step up and vie for the remaining starting spots.

"Quentin has a good killer change-up and locates the ball well but doesn't throw as hard as he did before tearing his labrum last year," Alday said. "Darren is also not throwing as hard as he used to but has worked really hard on his location. He has a good split-finger and cutter that could really help us."

Coltrinari led UNM in starts (15) last season, compiling the second most innings (90.0) and wins (7). With a 8.50 ERA, he struck out 69 while walking just 22.

Senior Jesse Perez, junior Jackie Smith and sophomore Bobby Moore all return as experienced relievers which will be valuable to the bullpen. Last year, Perez had the lowest ERA (5.97) of pitchers seeing at least 10 innings. Smith was 1-1 with 16 strikeouts in 15 appearances while Moore fanned 17 in 16 innings of work.

Completing the staff are newcomers Aaron Bates (freshman), Chad Itokazu (freshman), Brandon Hewett (freshmen), Timothy McGuire (freshman), Sean McKee (junior), Damon Miller (junior) and Jordan Salazar (freshman).

"The biggest thing is that we have better pitching depth than ever before," Alday said. "We will be able to throw strikes and get more outs."

CATCHERS
The Lobo tradition of having solid catchers who can not only hit well, but catch and throw should not end this season despite the fact that they are all newcomers. The loss of Jeff Grady and A.J. Spitaleri will be minimized by the addition of Drew McDonald, a transfer from Arizona.

"Drew is really good," Alday said. "Offensively, he is good but he can really catch and throw."

McDonald, who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners right out of high school, came to UNM after hearing he would split time at Arizona.

Freshmen Zach Arnett and Max Willett give Alday more options at catcher. Both had extremely colorful high school careers. Willett had a strong fall while Arnett joins the team this semester after playing football for the Lobos.

INFIELD
After shuffling players and positions to fill the infield last year, the Lobos have the luxury of bringing back all four starters.

Two All-Americans occupy first base in juniors Chris Carlson and Daniel Stovall.

Carlson earned All-America honors last year as a designated hitter but did see time at first. Carlson started 57 of 58 games, hit .395, driving in a team-leading 79 runs. He tied for the team lead in homers, belting 15.

"Both will split time between first and DH, especially early in the year because we want them both to get the opportunity to play defense, not just offense," Alday said. "Stovall had a little sophomore slump but both will play in the middle of the lineup, probably back-to-back, making it very good."

If Stovall, a freshman All-American, had a sophomore slump, every second-year player would like to have a slump like Stovall's. He hit .350 with 58 RBI, nine home runs and 48 runs scored. Stovall, playing in all 58 games with 57 starts, fielded .988, the best of all everyday players.

All-American sophomore Jordan Pacheco returns to his starting roll at second base after a phenomenal freshman campaign. Pacheco led the team with a .408 batting average and 95 hits. He tied for team lead in home runs (15), scored the second most runs (65) while driving in 52 runs as the leadoff hitter.

"Jordan did everything for us last year," Alday said. "He was in the leadoff spot and hit home runs, hit with power, hit for average and his on-base percentage was outstanding. He did all the little things well. He is a good worker and is going to be very successful because his work ethic is outstanding."

Senior Ryan Barba resumes the starting job at shortstop, a position he moved to last season after starting his career at second.

"Ryan is probably one of the beset shortstops in the country," Alday said. "He can really catch and throw the ball well. He needs to work on hitting more consistently but we want him to play defense for us first. Whatever he does offensively is a plus as long as he is great defensively."

In 2005, Barba hit .337 with eight triples and five stolen bases. He led the team in assists with 166 and turned 27 double plays, fielding .925 overall.

Sophomore Ian Hollick is back as the starting third baseman after claiming the spot early last season. He started 47 of the 52 games he played in, hitting .322 with five triples and 28 RBI.

"We think Ian is one of the guys who will be key to us this year," Alday said. "He is a little streaky but has improved tremendously. We were going to redshirt him last year but all of a sudden he went on a roll. He was key to us last year and played great defense."

Freshman Dane Hamilton will be the Lobos utility man this season, having the ability to play second, short and third. Alday says Hamilton could also see time in the outfield. Itokazu, senior Jay Russell and freshman Jordan Salazar could also see time in the infield but Itokazu and Salazar are more likely to see action on the mound while Russell will platoon in the outfield.

Freshman Scott Gracey is projected to redshirt this year after an injury sidelined him early in the fall. If he decides not to redshirt, he could see time in the infield.

OUTFIELD
Left field will be comprised of Russell and freshman Derek Pilkington while Matt Foote returns to his roll at center and Chris Dabbs takes over in right.

"Both Jay and Derek will see action," Alday said. "Both are left-handed hitters and good offensively. Jay has done well for us over the last two years and Derek is going to get better and better as the year goes on."

Russell, seeing time in 47 games, started 29. He hit .299, drove in 13 runners and scored 36 times.

Foote occupied center field last season, starting 53 games. He committed just two errors all season and earned the second best fielding percentage (.984) of everyday players. Foote also led the team in stolen bases, swiping 11 on 14 attempts.

"Matt has a lot of potential and could be a good draft pick this year," Alday said. "He can run hard and has a great arm. He really roams in the outfield. He needs to improve on his on-base percentage and work on his short game. If he does that, he could have a great year for us.

"Chris Dabbs has a lot of power and is a good defensive player because he gets great jumps on the ball," Alday said. "He has improved so much over the last two years."

Dabbs hit .286 in 2005, seeing action in 49 games with 41 starts. He had 37 RBI and seven home runs while stealing five bases.

Senior Brandon Bingham will platoon in left or right for the Lobos, adding to the team's depth. Last season he played in 28 games, getting seven starts. Bingham was solid defensively, getting 20 putouts while committing just one error for a .952 fielding percentage.

Alday also says that Itokazu could see time in left field if the Lobos are facing a left-handed pitcher. Itokazu saw limited action in center field in 2005 before an injury ended his season.

SCHEDULE
The 2006 schedule will test the Lobos early and often. They are slated to match up with three teams (Oregon State - 3rd, TCU - 27th and Arizona - 31st) ranked in the Collegiate Baseball preseason top-40 rankings and three others who received votes (Cal Poly SLO, UNLV and San Diego State).

UNM opens the season on the road at I-25 rival New Mexico State with a single game. Then they head to Texas State for their first three-game series.

The Lobos return home to open on Feb. 14 with the first of four single-game match-ups against Texas Tech throughout the season. Then its back on the road for a three-game series at Arizona, which posted a 39-21 record in 2005.

Tuesday, Feb. 21 is the first of 17 homes games over the next month that brings New Mexico State, Utah Valley State, Northern Colorado, Oregon State, San Francisco and Dallas Baptist to the Duke City.

"One thing about our schedule is it is very good," Alday said. "There are names there which aren't household but will be good competition for us. San Francisco and Dallas Baptist both won over 30 games last year. Its also nice that we will be home for a long time before heading to San Diego to start the conference season."

The Mountain West Conference made a two schedule changes to balance out the addition of TCU. First, the conference is hosting a preseason tournament in San Diego which pits the Lobos against San Diego State, Air Force, BYU and Utah over a five-day stretch.

The second change by the conference is the elimination of home-and-home series. New Mexico will play at home against Air Force, Utah and TCU and take on San Diego State, BYU and UNLV on the road.

The Lobos first conference home series is against Air Force with a doubleheader on April 13 and a single game the 14th. They end the regular season at home May 18-20 with TCU.

The conference tournament, May 23-27, is hosted by UNLV this year. The Rebels have claimed the tournament championship and the conference's automatic NCAA bid the last two seasons.

KDEF 1150 AM TO BROADCAST LOBO BASEBALL FOR THIRD CONSECUTIVE SEASON: For the third straight season, Albuquerque radio station KDEF will supply exclusive broadcasts of Lobo baseball on 1150 AM and throughout the world at www.GoLobos.com. All of the team's 29 home games will be broadcast live.

Henry Tafoya will call the play-by-play for the Lobos, while Dan Rivera and Mike Foote will provide analysis. It also marks the third straight season for the trio calling Lobo baseball.

Prior to each broadcast, there will be a 15 minute pre-game show. A post-game show with interviews will follow at the conclusion of each game.

In addition to the broadcasts, all of New Mexico's home games can be followed live on the internet at www.GoLobos.com with Gametracker. Gametracker takes official statistics from the press box and provides up-to-the-minute information for users, including updated team and individual stats, an updated box score, and play-by-play. Gametracker can be accessed on the right side of UNM's home page in the upcoming events box.

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