It's Crunch Time for UNM as Lobos Visit Nevada
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  05/08/2014

Lobo Baseball -  at Lobo Field
When: Friday - 6 p.m. (MT), Saturday - 2 p.m. (MT), Sunday - 1 p.m. (MT), Monday - 1 p.m. (MT)
Who: San Diego State Aztecs (Friday-Sunday), Utah Valley (Monday)
GoLobos.com: Live stats,box score, live stream, postgame recap and stats
Video: Each game will be streamed live at GoLobos.com
Radio: ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM will broadcast all three games against the Aztecs but not the Monday game against Utah Valley

Mountain West Standings

PlaceSchoolMW recordOverall record
1T New Mexico 16-8 33-16-1
1T UNLV 16-8 29-18
3 Nevada 14-10 26-20
4 San Diego St. 13-11 33-16
5 Fresno St. 12-15 25-25
6 San José St. 9-18


7 Air Force 7-17


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Here we go. There are two weeks left in the regular season. Six games in nine days to determine the Mountain West title that four teams still have a shot at winning: UNM and UNLV are tied for first, Nevada sits two games back and San Diego State is three games back. The Lobos travel to Nevada this weekend and host Air Force next week. The Rebels, meanwhile, must hit the road to face the Aztecs in San Diego (where SDSU is 23-4 this season) this weekend and then host the Wolf Pack the following week. After hosting the Rebels, SDSU's final series is at Fresno State.

The pieces are in place for UNM to claim at least a share of its third straight regular-season championship. If they win all six they will guarantee themselves that much. Winning all six, though, will be a tall task as the Wolf Pack are 16-4 at home this season, including 10-2 in Mountain West play. Taking a series from them in Peccole Park will not be easy.

"We really need to focus on two big conference series that we need to do very well in," senior outfielder John Pustay said. "(Nevada is) going to play well at their yard. It's going to be a big challenge for us, but we're going to be sharp and ready to go on Friday."

Despite being picked by the conference's coaches to win the title in the preseason, head coach Ray Birmingham had no such illusions with such a young squad that lost a ton of talent from 2013.

"If you had told me in February that we'd be in this position, I would have said yeah, I'll take it with this young team," he said. "But now that we're here, I'm getting greedy. I want to pull this off. But Nevada plays really well at home. It's hard to beat them at their place. Then with Air Force, you never know if they're going to play like the Yankees or (not)."

UNM will likely start six first- or second-year players in the field this weekend at Nevada, plus another two on the mound in sophomore Drew Bridges and junior transfer Colton Thomson. Birmingham did all he could earlier in the season to prepare them for these games, and now the young Lobos have a chance to step up and prove their mettle.

• SCOUTING NEVADA ... The Wolf Pack are coming off a pair of midweek wins but lost a Mountain West series last weekend at Air Force. They did, however, snap the Falcons nine-game home winning streak. At home they are very good, boasting a 16-4 record, including a 10-2 mark in conference play. They will score a lot of runs at Peccole Park, as they have scored fewer then five in just five of their 20 home contests.

Offensively they are led by a trio of players hitting .324 or better. Juniors Austin Byler (.351, 12 home runs, 12 doubles) and Kewby Meyer (.351, 24 doubles) lead the way. Freshman Trenton Brooks is at .324, but is hitting a team-best .372 in conference play. Also hitting .372 in MW games is senior Brad Gerig, who is at .293 with four home runs overall. The Wolf Pack boast a very solid lineup and are hitting .282 as a team. They hit for power (.406 slugging), get on base (.363 OBP) and are very good defensively (.967 fielding percentage).

Nevada is also very solid on the mound. The staff owns a 4.01 ERA and is holding opponents to a .268 batting average against. Michael Fain, Friday night’s starter, is 4-4 with a 3.70 ERA. He leads the staff with 12 starts and 73.0 innings pitched. He has struck out 45, walked 28 and is allowing opponents to hit .261.

Anchoring the bullpen is junior righty Colby Blueberg (3-2, 1.31, 39 Ks, 41.1 IP, 29 appearances) and sophomore closer Adam Whitt (5-4, 3.09, 45 Ks, 43.2 IP, 25 appearances. Outside of that pair, no pitcher has more than 13 relief appearances. And if the Lobos manage to score a run off Blueberg, it will be his first run allowed in Mountain West play: he has not been charged with a single run in 18.1 innings while striking out 16 and walking just two.

• NEXT FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICAN? ... The UNM baseball team has had a Freshman All-American in each of the last three seasons: DJ Peterson in 2011, Ryan Padilla in 2012 and Sam Haggerty in 2013. This year there are several candidates to be the fourth in as many years. Outfielder Danny Collier out of Sandia HS in Albuquerque is fourth in the nation among freshmen with a .365 average. He has reached base safely in all 31 of his starts. Andre Vigil, out of Volcano Vista in Albuquerque, has also been phenomenal, especially in conference play. Overall he’s batting .322 with 23 runs and 29 RBIs. In MW play, though, he’s fourth with a .375 average and fifth with 21 RBIs. Lastly, Jack Zoellner has started the last 14 games at first base for New Mexico. He still needs a few more at bats to qualify, but he’s hitting .317 with 20 walks and 26 runs scored. He has also played excellent defense at first base, committing just two errors in 272 chances. Lane Milligan, meanwhile, only has 66 at bats but is hitting .348 with 15 runs scored. The Lobos are a young team, but there’s plenty of young talent to go around.

• THOMSON, REAL HONORED ... Alex Real was named Mountain West Player of the Week and Colton Thomson earned Mountain West Pitcher of the Week honors Monday, May 5 after they helped the Lobos take two of three from San Diego State. It’s the first career win for each lpayer. Real hit .615 (8-for-13) with two runs, two RBIs and four doubles, finishing with a 4-for-4 performance in Sunday’s 13-5 win. Thomson started Saturday’s 6-1 win and pitched seven shutout innings. He allowed six hits, all singles, did not walk a batter and struck out two. He did not allow a base runner past first over his final three innings.

• ACADEMIC HONORS FOR HAGGERTY ... Sam Haggerty earned Academic All-District honors from CoSIDA Thursday, May 1. The sophomore out of Denver, Colo., is majoring in finance and has a 3.78 cumulative GPA. This is his first Academic All-District honor in his first year eligible (first-year players are not eligible). Last year he was one of a program record 16 players named Academic All Mountain West and one of a record six to be named a Mountain West Scholar Athlete.

• WATCH OUT FOR SANCHEZ ... UNM’s sophomore right-handed closer Victor Sanchez was named to the Stopper of the Year Midseason Watch List by the NCBWA on Wednesday, April 23. He is one of 50 players on the list for the award, which is given annually to the top reliever in Division I. He is also one of just two pitchers from the MW to be named to the watch list.

• ... AND HOLLEY TOO ... Sanchez isn’t the only UNM sophomore on a major award’s watch list. Shortstop Jared Holley was named to the Brooks Wallace Award watch list on Firday, April 25. The award is given to the best shortstop in the nation by the College Baseball Foundation. It’s the second straight year a Lobos has been on the watch list as former Lobo Alex Allbritton was named to it in 2013.

• ENTERING THE RANKINGS ... On Monday, April 21, the Lobos were ranked No. 24 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 30 by the NCBWA. This is now the fifth year out of the last six that the Lobos have been nationally ranked by a publication at some point during the season.

• YOUTH IS SERVED... Of UNM’s top six hitters, Chase Harris is the only senior and four of the seven are underclassmen: two freshmen (Danny Collier and Andre Vigil), two sophomores (Sam Haggerty and Jared Holley). Also, all of UNM’s top four relievers are either first- or second-year players.

• BULLPEN DOMINANCE ... Teams should be put on notice that if UNM takes a lead into the seventh inning, they are in trouble. UNM is an astounding 29-0 when leading after six and 30-0 when leading after eight thanks to an outstanding bullpen. Lobo relievers own a 3.84 ERA this season and is led by a quartet of performers, all of whom are in just their first or second year in the program. Closer Victor Sanchez is 2-0 with a team-leading eight saves in 15 relief appearances this season. He has struck out 19 and allowed just three earned runs in 23.2 relief innings for a 1.14 ERA. Freshman Carson Schneider is UNM’s go-to lefty out of the pen, having made 20 relief appearances and owning a 3.33 ERA over 24.1 innings. Sophomore Taylor Duree has been the workhorse, leading the team with 25 relief appearances and 30.2 innings out of the pen. He is 2-0 with one save and a 3.38 ERA. Junior Jake Cole is 2-0 with three saves and a 3.23 ERA in 16 relief appearances spanning 29.1 innings. He is the Lobos’ strikeout leader out of the pen, fanning 32 batters on the year.