ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A seven-run fourth broke open a back-and-forth game for the University of New Mexico as it defeated Fresno State 11-6 Saturday afternoon at Lobo Field. UNM (26-11-1, 10-4) torched Fresno State’s (18-17, 7-10) starter, Derick Velazquez, for 11 runs in just 3.1 innings.
"We're finding a way (to win)," UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. "It's somebody different every day."
The big fourth inning began innocuously enough with a groundout, but after that nine straight men reached base safely: six on singles, two walks and one big bases-clearing triple.
"It was just one of those innings," catcher Alex Real said. "It was one guy after another: walk, hit, walk. Everything just went our way that inning."
Andre Vigil and Jack Zoellner got the rally started with singles through the right side. Jared Holley then grabbed an RBI with a single through the left side. Aaron Siple walked to load the bases for leadoff man Danny Collier. The freshman smacked a single to right to score one, and Sam Haggerty followed with a single to left to score one more.
That kept the bases loaded for Chase Harris. After a visit to the mound, the senior smoked the first pitch he saw to right center for a bases-clearing triple. Real then singled through the left side to score Harris and chase Velazquez.
Starter Colton Thomson (4-4) was not at his best, needing 110 pitches to get through five innings, but he was good in escaping damage in the first two innings. The Bulldogs loaded the bases in each of the first two frames, but Thomson got a grounder to second in the first and a flyout to center in the second to escape unscathed.
Those outs proved huge in later innings because UNM took advantage of its opportunity in the bottom of the first and scored four two-out runs. Real’s 15th double of the season got the scoring started as Haggerty scored all the way from first. John Pustay followed with a ground-rule double down the left-field line to score Real. Vigil then doubled to right center and advanced to third on an error by Fresno State’s center fielder. He came in to score on a balk by Velazquez.
Velazquez came in having allowed just 12 runs all season in 32.2 innings, but the Lobos hit him hard and have now scored 16 runs off him in just 6.1 innings this season.
UNM's lead, though, evaporated in the third and fourth innings. The Bulldogs scored three in the third and added two solo home runs in the fourth to take a 5-4 lead. But the Lobos answered with their seven-spot and were never truly threatened the rest of the way.
Thomson gave way to the bullpen after the fifth and saw four relievers combine to allow just four hits in the last four innings. Taylor Duree and Carson Schneider, teammates at Sandia High School two years ago, kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard in the final four frames.
"The Sandia staff did great at a very crucial moment," Birmingham said.
Real added a second double and finished 3-for-4 with a walk, a run and two RBIs. Depending on what other players did across the country Saturday, his 16 doubles moved him into a tie for second in that category in the NCAA.
"Wow, I had no idea," he said when informed he was near the top of the national leaderboard.
Real then added with a laugh, "That's pretty awesome. I can't hit any home runs so I'll take the doubles."
Vigil and Holley also finished with three hits apiece as UNM pounded out 16 and eight of its nine starters recorded at least one.
Despite the two big innings, the Lobos were held off the scoreboard in the other seven innings, and that's what Birmingham talked to his team about after the game.
"We have to put our best effort out there all nine innings, and we didn't do that today," Real said.
UNM has now won four straight and seven of its last eight games. The Lobos will go for the sweep at noon Sunday with senior and Preseason All-American Josh Walker on the mound.
Notes: All nine starters in UNM’s lineup entered the game with a batting average .300 or better and all nine finished the game at .300 or better … Duree's appearance was his 18th of the season, which leads the team ... the Lobos moved to 8-0 all-time vs. Fresno State in Albuquerque.