Feb. 20, 2010
AUSTIN, Texas - Down a run in the final inning to the No. 1 college baseball team in America. At their place! No big deal. These are Ray Birmingham Lobos, who step to the plate with no fear in their heart and fearsome bats in their hands.
What the Lobos/Davids of New Mexico kind of did Saturday in Austin was reach into a back pocket, pull out a slingshot and knock Goliath on his rear in a stunning 6-5 Lobo win.
The first stone out of the Lobo slingshot in the ninth was a Justin Howard solo homer that pushed New Mexico into a 5-all tie.
Yeah, that was special. So was La Cueva product Austin House striking out the final two Longhorn batters in the bottom of the ninth to seal the Lobo win -- the first win ever for a New Mexico team over a No. 1 ranked opponent.
These Lobos have a few slingshots on the mound, too. The Longhorns took a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the second and never scored again as UNM pushed four unanswered runs across the plate, including two in the ninth.
"It's a great day for Lobo baseball," said Birmingham. "It's a great win for the young men on this baseball team. Our pitching staff was fearless and our offense was special today.
"If you didn't believe in Lobo baseball before today, you will now."
Coach Ray Birmingham after 6-5 win at No. 1 Texas
"If you didn't believe in Lobo baseball before today, you will now. Beating Texas in Texas is extremely hard to do no matter who you are."
The Lobos were 0-9 all-time when playing the No. 1 team in the nation before today. All nine games were against Arizona State. The Lobos improve their record at 1-1 on the season. Texas is also 1-1 on the season.
The Lobos got off to a hot start in the top of the first inning as junior Ryan Honeycutt sent a two-run home run over the right field fence. Junior All-America candidate Rafael Neda was walked prior to Honeycutt's home run.
The top-ranked Longhorns came roaring back with four runs in the bottom of the first.
Texas' final run came in the bottom of the second and put the Longhorns on top 5-2. They were held scoreless over the final seven innings.
From there on it was all Lobos. New Mexico would get a run in the top of the third and sixth and two in the top of the ninth.
Howard led off the top of the third with a single. After a failed pick off attempt to first base from Texas catcher Cameron Rupp, Howard advanced to third. Neda grounded out to Texas second baseman Jordan Etier to score Howard to make the score 5-3 Texas.
Senior Max Willett led off the top of the sixth with a triple to right center. Junior transfer Kenny Held grounded out to Etier at second base that allowed Willett to score from third. The Lobos trailed the 2009 College World Series runner-up by only a run at this point.
After coming up empty in the top of the seventh and eighth the Lobos scored two runs in the top of the ninth.
Howard started it off with a one-out home run over the right field fence to tie the game at five. Neda reached on an infield single after Texas third baseman Kevin Lusson was unable to handle the chopper and make the throw.
In his first collegiate experience, Conley came on to pinch run for Neda. Conley advanced to third on a Honeycutt single. With runners on the corners and one out, Willett hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field to score Conley.
Howard led the way for the Lobos at the plate and went 3-for-5 with one RBI. Honeycutt went 3-for-5 with one RBI, Willett went 3-for-4 with one RBI and freshman Alex Allbritton went 2-for-4.
The Lobo pitching staff put together a gem after giving up five runs in the first two frames. Starter Willy Kesler got his first start since April 15, 2009 and went 1.1 innings with four of five runs unearned. Kesler gave up six hits and faced 12 batters against one of the toughest lineups in the country. Junior Kenny Toves faced the next 23 batters over the next 5.2 innings and gave up only four hits while striking out five Texas batters and more importantly gave up no runs.
True freshman Austin House (1-0) pitched two innings of hitless baseball and struck out the final two batters to earn his first career collegiate win.
Chance Ruffin (0-1) picked up the loss for the Longhorns. The Longhorns' starter Brandon Workman went six innings with three of four runs earned off nine Lobo hits.
The Lobos finish the three game series against Texas Sunday at 12 p.m. MT. Fans can listen to the action live on 101.7 FM the TEAM. For more information, visit www.GoLobos.com.