May 24, 2011
Lobo Baseball - At the Mountain West Tournament
Tony Gwynn Stadium - San Diego, Calif.
Tuesday: Lobos 5, Brigham Young 4
Wednesday: 8 p.m. (MT), Lobos vs. TCU Horned Frogs
TV: All games live on MountainWest Sports Network - The Mtn.
Radio: Lobo games live on ESPN Radio 101.7 (FM) The TEAM
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Recap, Box Score
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobo.com
Lobo Jacob Nelson became a Lobo hero by going long. He did it again by going small.
Nelson, pulled off Ray Birmingham's bench as a pinch hitter, smashed a solo home run in the ninth inning to hand UNM its first lead of the game - a lead that didn't hold. Nelson also walked and scored in the 11th inning to give UNM a 5-4 lead that did hold up Tuesday in San Diego State's Tony Gwynn Stadium.
It was a dramatic 5-4 comeback win for the No. 6 seed Lobos, who entered the 2011 Mountain West Conference Tournament needing a string of upsets in order to claim the 2011 title and the automatic NCAA bid.
Nelson's homer in the ninth and a gutsy two-run rally in the eighth inning allowed UNM to rally for the win and advance to an 8 p.m. (MT) battle Wednesday with the No. 7 ranked TCU Horned Frogs, the MWC regular-season champion. TCU is coming off a three-game sweep of the Lobos in Albuquerque's Isotopes Park.
"It was a wing and a prayer," said Lobo Coach Ray Birmingham of the comeback win. "I was proud the way the kids competed and fought back and that's what they have done all year. It's been a challenging season, but these Lobos never quit fighting. They keep coming after people and I'm so proud of that."
The Lobos had no choice but to come at BYU after falling behind 1-0 and 3-1 to the No. 3 seed Cougars, who carried that 3-1 lead into the eighth inning before UNM formed a 3-3 tie going into the ninth.
Nelson hadn't hit a home run all season, but knew his smash to right field was out almost at contact and was shaking his fist in celebration as he trotted down the first base line.
"Nelson has a lot of power. He has big-league power," said Birmingham. "I told him if it came over the plate to hit it and he did."
BYU scratched out a single run in the bottom of the ninth to produce extra innings. The Lobos produced the win in the top of the 11th inning and Nelson was again a hero - but he wasn't alone.
Nelson massaged out a walk to stand on first. He was pushed down to second base on a nice bunt by Alex Allbritton. Nelson then scored on a single up the middle by Trey Porras to hand the Lobos their second lead of the game. BYU got out of the inning with a double play, but the Cougars left the inning in a one-run hole they failed to climb out of.
The loss dumps BYU into the losers' bracket while UNM faces the daunting task of beating a TCU team and a pitching staff that earned a day's rest Tuesday with a bye as the tourney's No. 1 seed.
UNM starter Rudy Jaramillo went a solid eight innings for UNM and was relieved by Gera Sanchez, in the bottom of the ninth inning. Jaramillo gave up the circle allowing seven hits and striking out nine Cougars. Sanchez got the win in relief.
"Those two guys are the older kids and they throw strikes and go get `em," said Birmingham.
Said Jaramillo: "I was just trying to throw strikes and throw quality pitches. I was able to hit the outside corner."
The Lobo win over BYU is the first in a string of upsets UNM needs to claim the 2011 tourney title. It gets tougher Wednesday against TCU, a team with 40 wins and a preseason No. 1 pick in several polls. If UNM had lost this game to BYU, the Lobos would have had to win six straight games in order to be the MWC tourney champs. It was a huge win.
DJ Peterson had a big game for the Lobos going 4-of-5 with two RBIs. Kyle Stiner had one RBI and scored a run. Nelson had one hit and two RBIs and Porras produced the game-winning RBI that scored Nelson from second base in the 11th frame. UNM had 14 hits to nine hits for BYU.
Sanchez went three innings in relief, striking out five Cougars. UNM is now 17-39 on the year.
Brigham Young struck first in the game with a lone run in the bottom of the third inning. UNM's Jaramillo got a quick out and then got into trouble by issuing two walks sandwiched around a BYU single. A chopping grounder to Kyle "Beep" Stiner at second scored a Cougar from third, but Stiner booted the ball and the bases were still loaded with one out.
Jaramillo helped himself with a big strikeout to produce the second BYU out. A second grounder to Stiner was handled safely and UNM got out of the inning.
The Lobos tied the game at 1-all in the top of the fourth and had a good chance to take the lead. Ben Woodchick led off with a single that bounced off the BYU pitcher and died in the infield. Peterson then pounded a deep triple to right center that scored Woodchick. UNM had a Lobo on third with no outs.
UNM's Luke Campbell punched a fly into right field that Cougar Jaycob Brugman slightly misjudged. The Cougar still had his weight behind him and made a strong throw to the plate as Peterson tried to tag up. Peterson was out on the play. It was the third double play of the game, at that point, for BYU.
The Lobos produced another mild threat in the fifth inning. The Lobos' Alex Allbritton bounced another ball off the BYU pitcher with one out. UNM's Trey Porras reached first on an error by the BYU shortstop and the Lobos had runners at first and second. Logan Lippert then flew out and Stiner ended the inning with a groundout to first.
BYU turned another double play in the top of the sixth. UNM's Peterson, on first after a single, was moving on a hit-and-run call with Campbell at bat. Campbell hit a deep fly to BYU's Brugman in right, who made the catch and threw to first to double Peterson.
The Cougars played some heads-up baseball in the bottom of the sixth to take a 3-1 lead. BYU's Ryan Bernal singled with one out. Cougar Austin Hall then ripped a double to left, but UNM got sloppy on the relay and Bernal never slowed at third and scored to give BYU a 2-1 lead.
The Cougars went up 3-1 when Alex Wolfe launched a high, deep fly to left center that found a hole and pushed Hall home. Wolfe was left stranded at second.
The Lobos scratched out two key runs in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game at 3-3. Lippert led off with a savage slash down third-base line for a double. He scored on a single up the middle by Stiner. Stiner was sacrificed down to second on a bunt by Woodchick.
Stiner, representing the tying run, stood on second with one out. He didn't stand there long as Peterson got his third hit of the game to score Stiner. BYU escaped the inning by turning a double play on a line drive to third base by Campbell that also caught Peterson off first base. It was BYU's fifth double play of the game.
The Lobos took the 4-3 lead on Nelson's one-out smash over the right field wall.
BYU tied the game 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth when an Allbritton error at third and a wild pitch by Sanchez put BYU's Alex Hancock on second base with one out. BYU's Dane Nielsen punched a single into right to score Hancock for the unearned run. The two teams marched into extra innings.
The Lobos had a chance in the top of the tenth inning when Woodchick walked and Peterson got his fourth hit of the game to place Lobos on first and second with two out. UNM loaded the bases when Campbell walked. Garver ended the inning with a pop fly to left field.
The Lobos took their 5-4 lead in the top of the 11th.