April 25, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to cap a rally from a 13-8 deficit to defeat the Texas Tech Red Raiders 14-13 in front of 1,361 fans at Isotopes Park Wednesday afternoon.
Alex Allbritton’s single to right with two outs allowed Josh Melendez to scamper home from second with the winning run. The win was only the second for the Lobos (23-19) when they were trailing after eight innings all season.
“I struggled a little bit early on in the game,” Allbritton said. “But I just knew that if I saw the pitch I wanted to hit, then I had a real good chance of putting it in play. And that’s what my main goal was.”
Freshman Michael Baca, batting .083 coming into the game, made his first career start at designated hitter, and got the rally in the ninth started with his second hit of the game. One batter later Ben Woodchick singled through the hole between third and short to send Baca to second and bring the tying run to the plate in DJ Peterson.
“Michael Baca started it off and that’s what got it rolling,” Mitchell Garver said. “We got runners in scoring position, guys got some clutch hits, and one at a time we started tacking on the runs.”
Peterson, who is leading the Mountain West with a .438 average, lofted a single to left on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases for freshman Ryan Padilla.
Padilla watched the first pitch go for strike one, before lofting a line drive just over the reach of the third baseman into left field. Baca and Woodchick both scored and Peterson went to third to put runners on the corners for Josh Melendez with one out.
Melendez, who had hit a monster three-run homer in the third inning, lashed a hard grounder to Red Raider third baseman Bo Alboteli. Alboteli threw to second to get the force, but the relay to first sailed wide, which allowed Peterson to score the tying run.
Melendez promptly stole second to put the winning run in scoring position. Texas Tech then decided to intentionally walk Trey Porras to face Allbritton.
“This (comeback) was about everybody being clutch,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said.
“Coach (Birmingham) talked to us about not taking at bats off,” Allbritton said. “When we had chances to score guys (Tuesday night) we didn’t capitalize on that. This afternoon when we had the opportunities we didn’t take at bats off and we capitalized.”
The comeback, however, was not simply a one-inning affair. The Lobos found themselves down 6-1 going into the bottom of the second, and 7-3 going into the bottom of the third. They erupted for five runs in the third, three on Melendez’s home run and two on a single to left by Baca, to take an 8-7 lead.
But after the teams traded zeroes in the fourth, Texas Tech (23-21) scored five of their own in the fifth and one in the sixth to take a 13-8 lead.
“I told them every at bat is important,” Birmingham said. “Don’t worry about the score. Play the game the right way.”
“Today was long and mentally tough on the guys,” Garver said. “But when it came down to the final three innings, we started to lock it down again and we got some more energy.”
The Lobos began chipping away. They scored one in the sixth and one in the seventh to get within striking distance. Meanwhile, Jake McCasland and Hobie McClain, the fifth and sixth UNM pitchers of the day respectively, shut the Red Raiders out over the last three innings.
“McCasland made the difference in the ballgame today,” Birmingham said. “He threw up goose eggs when we needed goose eggs and we weren’t getting any goose eggs. He won the ballgame for us.”
“Our pitching really kept us in the game,” Allbritton said. “They did a great job.”
Seven Lobos recorded multi-hit games with Woodchick leading the way with a 4-6 performance. Melendez led the team with four RBI while Padilla added three. Six players scored two runs as every UNM starter reached base.
The Lobos hope the comeback win can spark them as they return to conference play this weekend with a three-game series against UNLV.
“It’s a really important series for us,” Allbritton said. “We want to stay on top of the conference, and we have to sweep them to do that.”
Garver agreed with him.
“It’s a big series,” he said. “They’re good. They can scrap a little bit and that’s what’s threatening. But I have full confidence in our starting pitching that they’re going to get it done, and our offense is going to have a big weekend.”
“Every series from here on out is huge for us,” Birmingham said.
Friday’s game starts at 6 p.m. (MT) and fans can listen to the game live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team.