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Stevens: Lobos Look To MWC Race As A New Season
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  04/08/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

April 8, 2010

Mountain West Conference schedule

Friday: UNM at SDSU, Utah at BYU, CSU at UNLV
Saturday: UNM at UNLV, Utah at BYU, CSU at SDSU
Sunday: UNM at UNLV, CSU at SDSU

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It's the time of the season when the deck is reshuffled, records are turned back to 0-0, and teams get a re-do. It's Mountain West Conference time and the Lobos are one of those teams looking to reshape their record and possibly push into postseason play.

"We've told the team that they still have a chance to get into the postseason, but it all hinges on what they do in conference," said UNM coach Ty Singleton.

"It's a new season. Our returners know it's a new season and I believe our newcomers will follow the lead of our veterans. We all need to step up."

If the Lobos have a shortcoming with that veteran influence, it's that the time-tested Lobos are in the field or at the plate - and not on the mound. The Lobos went into the 2010 season with three first-year Division I arms and that youth - plus a tough, tough non-conference schedule - is one reason the Lobos ride a 10-20 mark into MWC play.

Here is where that reshuffling thing comes into play and produces new hope. The Lobos are 0-0 in league play just like Brigham Young, San Diego State, Utah, Colorado State and UNLV.

The kicker - the carrot - for MWC play is that there is no league tournament and the regular-season champ grabs the NCAA automatic bid.

Singleton said he understands why the league abandoned its tournament when the league was struggling to get more than one team into postseason play. He said the league's status has grown enough where he believes at least the MWC's regular-season champion will join a MWC tourney champ.

"Our conference is good," said Singleton. "Half our conference (three teams) went to postseason last year and in the past two years we have been rated in the top five or six in the country out of 16 conferences."

The Lobos open league play at 7 p.m. Friday at San Diego State and then fly into Las Vegas to battle UNLV on Saturday and Sunday.

"I think BYU should be favored," said Singleton. "San Diego State probably has the best pitcher, but BYU has a good pitcher and has all the parts behind her. BYU is a very solid team."

BYU, like the Lobos, took its lumps from No. 1 Washington and then-No. 2 Arizona, losing to both teams 8-0. The Cougars also lost twice to then-No. 10 Arizona State. The Cougars took two games from then-No. 19 Texas A&M and beat then-No. 9 Stanford 4-2. The Cougars can play at a high level.

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MWC RECORDS

BYU -- 24-8
SDSU -- 22-10
CSU -- 22-11
UNLV -- 23-14
Utah -- 17-18
UNM -- 10-20
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BYU has some big sticks starting with Angeline Quiocho with 11 home runs, a .451 batting average and a .934 slugging percentage. J.C. Clayton has a .374 average and Andrea Ramirez has 11 home runs and hits at a .368 clip. The Cougars have an ace in the circle in Paige Affleck with a 2.12 ERA and 113 strikeouts.

The Lobos' challenge in San Diego will be junior right-hander Samantha Beasley, who set a MWC single-game strikeout mark against Texas A&M. Beasley was beastly in sitting down 21 Aggies on March 21.

She destroyed the old MWC mark of 16. Beasley's 21 Ks also was a SDSU record and 19 of those 21 batters went down swinging. Unfortunately for Beasley, and SDSU, the game went to nine innings and A&M won 4-0.

"She is probably the best pitcher in the league," said Singleton. "I think BYU is the favored team. They have a good pitcher and they are good in every other part of the game. Both teams are going to be tough to beat.

"Beasley's best pitch is down, her drop. It's hard to drive the ball off her. She's difficult to hit and they are very good defensively behind her."

The Lobos' pitching staff consists of Samantha Gatson, Kari Gutierrez and Kaela DeBroeck. Gatson was ill for UNM's 10-0 loss Tuesday at New Mexico State is her status is uncertain for this MWC swing to SDSU and UNLV.

At the plate, UNM is led by Danielle Castro (.391), Katie Gilmore (.387), Cristin Anderson (.378), Stefanie Carramusa (.325), Jessica Lujan-Dresslar (.320) and Shaunte Duarte (.294).

"We've had several people on the disabled list, who should be back," said Singleton. "Our offense should improve. The key is our mental attitude. We've lost some games and it's important to go into these games expecting to win.

"Until the NMSU game, I thought our mental attitude was fine. We need to throw away that game and approach San Diego State and Brigham Young with the mentality we have had most of the season.

"When you go into conference, there is greater emotion and greater passion and you have to go out there and match that heart in order to be successful. If we can add great emotion and great energy to our game, there is a good chance we can be successful in league play."

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