ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team dropped the opener of its series against the San Diego State Aztecs by a score of 6-5 Friday night in front of 944 fans at Lobo Field. After UNM (31-15-1, 14-8) took a 3-2 lead in the fifth the Aztecs (32-14, 13-9) scored four straight runs and held off the Lobos in the ninth for the victory.
Head coach Ray Birmingham’s squad refused to go down quietly, as UNM got the tying run to third in the bottom of the ninth.
Jered Meek led off with a double to left center, and Lane Milligan worked a nine-pitch walk one batter later to bring the tying run to the plate. With two outs Sam Haggerty laced a double down the left field line to score both men and cut the lead to one. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch to put the tying run 90 feet away.
But Danny Collier, who was so good in his first game back from an injury, was retired by half a step on a grounder to second to end the game.
UNM’s defense let it down a bit, committing four errors, while the Aztecs made a number of spectacular defensive plays, including throwing a runner out at home, which helped provide the difference.
SDSU jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third on the back of three singles, but the Lobos used four straight two-out singles in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead.
Collier, fresh off missing the last eight games with a pulled hamstring, got things started with a single to center. Chase Harris followed with a shot off San Diego State’s pitcher, Bubba Derby. John Pustay then bounced the first pitch he saw up the middle to score Collier to tie the game. Alex Real then finished the scoring with a single up the middle of his own to score Harris.
The Aztecs tied the game in the fourth, but UNM avoided a bigger inning as starter Josh Walker got a double play on a lineout to Sam Haggerty at second.
Collier used his fresh legs to help the Lobos re-take the lead in the fifth. With the Aztec’s outfielders playing incredibly shallow, he smacked a pitch to deep right center and raced all the way to third with a standup triple leading off the frame. Harris then lined out to center as Collier raced in just ahead of the throw to give UNM the advantage.
SDSU then did some excellent two strike hitting to take the lead in the sixth. After Walker hit a man on an 0-2 pitch, the Aztecs singled on a 1-2 pitch and doubled home a pair on another 0-2 pitch to take the lead. They added another run later in the inning and one more in the seventh to take a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.
Collier was spectacular in his return, finishing 3-for-5 while his triple was his second of the season. The only other Lobos to record multiple base knocks were Meek, who finished 2-for-2 after entering the game as a defensive replacement, and Haggerty, who went 2-for-5. Jared Holley also returned after missing the last five games with a pulled hamstring. He finished 0-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt, his sixth of the season.
Walker suffered his fourth loss of the season and remained at 25 career wins, two wins of both the UNM and Mountain West record. He allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings. He struck out a pair and walked just one, but he also hit three batters.
The Lobos will look to end their four-game winning streak as the teams meet Saturday at 2 p.m. at Lobo Field. Colton Thomson will get the start for UNM. Fans can catch a live stream of the game at GoLobos.com or listen to the game on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM.
Notes: Taylor Duree made his team-high 24th relief appearance of the season while Carson Schneider made his 19th … both teams recorded 11 hits … Meek’s double in the ninth was his second of the year