Feb. 24, 2008
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Sophomore right-hander Ryan Escarcega pitched five scoreless innings and Drew McDonald and Rafael Neda continued to swing hot bats as the University of New Mexico baseball team swept the series from Eastern Michigan, 6-3, Sunday afternoon at Isotopes Park.
In a closely-pitched game, Escarcega (1-0) allowed only one hit in the best start of his career to earn the victory and propel the Lobos (4-0) to their fourth victory in three days. Escarcega walked only two and had eight groundouts to stifle the Eagle offense.
"Well today, they (EMU) threw a soft lefty and those guys give everybody fits. We were able to scratch runs here and there, but what happened was our pitching pitched," head coach Ray Birmingham said. "Escarcega is a stud. He is from West Mesa (High School) and he is as good of pitcher as there is. He threw a one hitter through five inning...this kid has enough stuff to be our No.1 and the crazy thing is all the guys we thought would be No. 1's may move down the list and some other guys may be moving up. So we got five or six guys who might be No.1. That is a great problem to have."
McDonald laced a double down the left field line early in the second. He scored two batters later on a double off the bat of junior Anthony Martinez, who made his first start as a Lobo in left field and finished the game 2-for-3. McDonald finished the series batting .500 with 10 RBIs and collected a hit in his first at-bat of all four games.
McDonald would score again in the fourth via a Neda-double to put the Lobos up, 2-0. The Lobos tacked on a run in the bottom of the fifth to cushion the lead at 3-0.
The Eagles scored two runs in the sixth off reliever Bobby Moore, but the Lobo bullpen preserved the lead just in time for the Lobos to add insurance in the bottom of the eighth. Senior Matt Hibbitts led off with a first-pitch double and scored on a McDonald single. Neda had his second double of the day to bring in McDonald, while junior Brian Cavazos-Galvez would later single home Neda to put the Lobos up, 6-2.
Scott Gracey, who started the game at shortstop, gave up only one run in the ninth, but struck out two in his first appearance on the mound.
Despite seven innings of solid pitching, EMU's Bobby Henderson took the loss.
"That (the sweep) is huge... I am proud of what they achieved, but we still have 52 games to play and that is a big deal," Birmingham said. "Our pitching is coming around and that is big. Coach (Ken) Jacome, coach (Chad) Tidwell and coach (Gerard) Pineda have done a super job with the players...but we have to keep pluggin'. We can tip our hat today, but tomorrow we have to go back to work."
The Lobos will duel Texas Tech in one game on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Game time is set for 3 p.m. at Isotopes Park.