TEMPE, Ariz. – Only two days after giving up 17 runs to the University of San Diego, the New Mexico Lobo pitching staff responded in a big way against No. 19 Arizona State Victor Sanchez, Taylor Duree, Jonathan Cuellar and Jake Cole shut down the Sun Devils (2-2) en route to a 7-1 win Tuesday night. It was UNM’s (2-2) first win in Tempe since April 2, 2003.
“This is a big team win,” said Cuellar, who was the winning pitcher. “It was important for us to come back after Sunday and play better as a team, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Each Lobo hurler had his moments of brilliance. Sanchez made the first start of his career and struck out three in two innings. Duree quickly retired the first five batters he faced before running into a bit of trouble, but he escaped without much damage. Jake Cole closed the game out by pitching the final two innings with five strikeouts, including fanning all three Sun Devils in the bottom of the ninth. No one was as efficient as Cuellar (1-0), though.
In the fifth, his first inning of work, he only needed four pitches to record three outs. He ran into a bit of trouble in the sixth as he allowed a pair of two-out singles, but he escaped unscathed. Then, he only needed six pitch,es to toss a scoreless seventh. Overall, he threw just 25 pitches, 19 of which he were for strikes, to get through three innings to earn his first win since last March 10 against UC Riverside.
“For me, it’s always great to come back to my hometown and play in front of family and friends and represent the Lobos,” said Cuellar, who is a native of Phoenix. “Today, we played as a team and everybody did their job. I was just glad I could contribute.”
The Lobo hitters backed the strong pitching by putting up their biggest offensive outing of the young season, buoyed by a five-run fifth.
The Sun Devils threatened to open the scoring in the second. The first two batters of the inning were walked by Sanchez, and another walk sandwiched between two strikeouts loaded the bases with two down for ASU’s No. 9 hitter Kyle Bilbrey. He grounded a ball hard to the hole at short, but Jared Holley used every inch of his 5-foot-6 frame to lay out and snag it. He quickly got to his knees and threw to Sam Haggerty at second for a force out to end the inning.
UNM then got on the board in the third. Aaron Siple led off with a walk. He moved to second on another walk by Haggerty. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch and scampered home on a groundout to second by Chase Harris.
The Lobos added to their lead in the fourth. Freshman Jack Zoellner recorded his first career hit on a towering double to center with one out. With two outs, Jered Meek laced a single to right center to score Zoellner.
UNM got out of another bases-loaded jam in the fourth. After a two-out solo home run cut the Lobo lead to 2-1, Duree, on in relief of Sanchez, gave up a single, double and walk, but got ASU’s leadoff man, Trever Allen, to line out to Siple in center to end the inning.
Just like the previous time they escaped a jam, the Lobos fought back and got on the scoreboard. And for the first time since their opening game, they put up a crooked number in an inning, which also turned out to be their biggest of the season so far.
Haggerty led off the top of the fifth with a single. One batter later, Alex Real singled him to second. John Pustay then lined a single to center to score Haggerty. Zoellner followed with his second hit of the game, a lined single past ASU’s diving first baseman, to load the bases for Ryan Padilla.
The junior came through with a looping single to left to score two. A two-out single by Holley then knocked home Zoellner. The final run of the inning was unearned as Siple reached on an infield single, but a throwing error by the Sun Devils’ shortstop allowed Padilla to scamper home with the fifth run of the frame.
Every Lobo recorded at least one hit, and five finished with two: Haggerty, Real, Pustay, Zoellner and Holley.
UNM now heads back to Albuquerque for its home opener, Friday at 4 p.m. vs. Northern Illinois in the Lobo Invite. It will also be the first radio broadcast of the season, with the voice of the Lobos, Robert Portnoy, calling the action for ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM. The game will also be streamed live on www.golobos.com.
Notes: The win was the second of Cuellar’s career … Meek’s RBI was the second of his career … this was only the second of the last six meetings between the two schools that was decided by more than two runs … it was only the ninth win all time for UNM at Arizona State, and first in the Lobos' last eight games at Packard Stadium ... five Lobos with ties to Arizona played: Siple, Zoellner, Real, Cuellar and Cole.