Feb. 18, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico Lobos baseball team earned its first win of the season Saturday, Feb. 18, beating the Nevada Wolf Pack 3-2 in front of 1,539 fans at Isotopes Park. Will Mathis earned the win in relief after freshman and Albuquerque native Ryan Padilla drove in Josh Melendez with the eventual winning run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.
"I was just looking to get a pitch up in the zone and luckily I got it," Padilla said. "It was great. I was excited to get some playing time today and help us get the win."
Padilla's heroics would not have been possible without another strong performance by the Lobos pitching staff. Sam Wolff made his first start and allowed only one run in five and one-third innings. He was followed by Rudy Jaramillo, Brandon Ward-Hersee, Mathis, and Gera Sanchez, who combined to allow only one run on three hits the rest of the way.
"The last two days have been close ballgames that went down to one play, but the thing we're doing at the University of New Mexico is pitch," Lobos head coach Ray Birmingham said. "(Wolff) is working on his secondary pitches and he'll be unbeatable. The University of New Mexico is about pitching. We've had good pitching the last two days, and we'll continue to do that. I'm very excited about the pitching staff."
The Lobos opened the scoring in the third inning. Kyle `Beep' Stiner led off with a single, and two batters later-Melendez continued his torrid start to the season with a double that sent Stiner to third. Mitchell Garver drove a hard single through the left side to score Stiner, and freshman Alex Real drove home Melendez two batters later with a single to right.
Nevada scored one in the top of the fourth to close the gap to 2-1. They were threatening for more in the sixth inning with runners on first and second with only one out when Rudy Jaramillo came in to relieve Wolff. After a groundout advanced the runners to second and third, Jaramillo got Nevada's designated hitter, Austin Byler, to ground out to Alex Allbritton at short, ending the threat.
The Wolf Pack tied the game in the eighth. Brett Jones walked with two outs and was replaced by a pinch runner, Cameron Brooks. Lobo catcher Erik Suarez appeared to have Brooks picked off first, but he broke for second and managed to avoid the tag of Allbritton. A wild pitch sent him to third, and he scored on a double by pinch-hitter Hugo Hernandez.
The Lobos, however, were not about to let this game slip away from them. Melendez led off the bottom of the inning with a single to center, reaching base for the eighth time already this season. He is batting .800 (4-5) and has failed to reach base in only one at-bat in two games against Nevada, for an on-base percentage of .889. Melendez then stole second and advanced to third when Garver hit a slow roller just in front of the plate. This set the stage for Padilla.
"We were just talking about getting that fly ball to score Melendez," he said. "I got the right pitch, and that was the only thing on my mind. It worked out for the best. I'm glad I got the job done to help us win."
"How `bout that kid, huh?" Birmingham said. "He did what he was supposed to do. He played team baseball and that's what we have to do."
Sanchez came on in the ninth to earn his first save of the season, striking out two in the process.
The series ends with a rubber match on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Isotopes Park.
"It's going to be another good game, another close one," Padilla said. "Hopefully we come out on top."