ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team dropped a 3-1 contest to the visiting Air Force Falcons Friday night at Lobo Field. UNM (36-18-1, 19-10) had a chance to clinch at least a share of the Mountain West regular-season title, but are now tied with UNLV after the Rebels defeated Nevada 17-9.
“I have to tip my hat to them,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. “They pitched their (butts) off. They didn’t give us any quarter. They didn’t make mistakes. They didn’t pitch above the belt. They can really pitch, and they’ve got a good club.”
With the score tied 1-1 in the eighth the Falcons (20-32, 10-19) scored a pair with a bit of help from the Lobos. A balk following a leadoff single moved a man into scoring position. A groundout and single allowed him to score, then the Lobos committed a pair of errors that led to the second run of the frame.
The Lobos apparently used all their late-game magic in Thursday’s come-from-behind 2-1, 10-inning win. Andre Vigil and Sam Haggerty both singled in the bottom of the ninth to put two men on, but Aaron Siple, the hero of Thursday’s win, hit a one-hopper right to the shortstop on a full-count pitch and was thrown out to end the game.
“The shame of it is we’re pitching pretty well right now,” Birmingham said. “But we scatter more hits than anybody on the planet.”
The Lobos finished with nine hits, but just one went for extra bases: a two-out double by Haggerty in the seventh. Haggerty finished 3-for-5 and John Pustay went 2-for-4 to lead the Lobos, but the bottom five hitters of the order combined to go just 2-for-18.
For the second straight game Air Force jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Unlike Thursday, the Lobos answered shortly thereafter with a run in the fifth.
Andre Vigil led off with a walk and Jered Meek sacrificed him to second. With two outs Siple sliced a 1-2 pitch to left, and Vigil scampered home, sliding in just ahead of the throw.
Starter Colton Thomson allowed just one run on seven hits and two walks in 6.1 innings. He struck out five and was adept at minimizing damage. Carson Schneider (2-1) allowed two runs, one earned, in just a third of inning to suffer the loss.
UNM still has a chance to claim a share of the regular-season title by taking the series finale Saturday. A win by the Lobos will give them a share of their third straight MW crown. A loss by UNLV would also do the trick, but the Lobos cannot afford to leave it out of their hands.
First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. as UNM will celebrate Senior Day. Pitchers Kevin Baumgartner, A.J. Carman, Josh Walker and Jonathan Cuellar will be honored with Pustay and Chase Harris in a pre-game ceremony. Sophomore Drew Bridges will get the start on the mound.
ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM will broadcast the game live, and fans can catch a live stream at GoLobos.com.
Notes: Pustay stole his third base of the season … it was Air Force’s first win in Albuquerque since March 22, 2002 … the teams combined to go 3-for-29 (.103) with runners in scoring position and just 7-for-43 (.163) with men on base.