ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team had one of its best seasons in program history in 2013. It set numerous team and conference records as it went 37-22 (25-5 in Mountain West play) and advanced to a fourth straight NCAA regional.
In 2014 head coach Ray Birmingham and his staff, Dan Spencer and Ken Jacome, will have to find a way to replace a lot of production lost from that team.
Gone are All-Americans DJ Peterson and Mitch Garver, who were co-MW Players of the Year for the second straight season in 2013, and Sam Wolff, the Lobos’ ace and a sixth-round pick of the Texas Rangers. That trio was three of a school-record seven players who were selected in the MLB Draft last June. Also selected was senior infielder Alex Allbritton, senior left-handed pitcher Will Mathis, senior outfielder Josh Melendez, and junior right-handed pitcher Jake McCasland.
The Lobos also lost closers Hobie McClain and Gabe Aguilar, starting left fielder Luke Campbell, catcher Erik Suarez, and outfielder Logan Lippert.
The coaching staff, however, believes there is plenty of incoming talent this fall to help offset that loss in production. Below is a quick look at some incoming players, including five from New Mexico, who might play a role in helping UNM secure a fifth straight NCAA regional appearance in 2014.
Jacob Atchley, RHP – Centennial HS, Frisco, Texas
A member of the East Team in the North Texas High School Baseball Coaches All-Star Game as a senior, he also played wide receiver on the football team with current Lobo freshman quarterback Lamar Jordan. He was also first Team All-District in 9-4A as a junior. He has great pitchability with a good curveball and changeup.
Zane Ancell, LHP – Coronado HS, Lubbock, Texas
He was a Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason Texas Region All High School Senior Honorable Mention prior to the 2013 season and was named 2-5A All-District after the season. He’s a strike thrower with a good breaking ball who also played outfield in high school. He’s a great student who has a good feel for his breaking ball and changeup.
Cody Bower, LF/RF – St. Pius X, Albuquerque
He is a corner outfielder who can really hit with a chance for good power. Prior to his senior season he was named Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason West Region All High School Senior Honorable Mention. He then proceeded to lead St. Pius to the 4-A state championship. He’s a good runner and a good athlete who played with the Albuquerque Baseball Academy. He also participated in the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M., where he was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Jake Cole, RHP – Pima College, Tucson, Ariz.
A righty with very good stuff, he had a 3.25 ERA in 69.1 innings last season. He struck out 67, walked just 26 and allowed only six extra-base hits. He was drafted in the 24th round out of high school by the Texas Rangers but went to North Carolina on a scholarship for a year instead. He left in 2011 and can either start games or close them out. He has a great breaking ball and changeup and has lots of experience.
Tyson Curley, LHP – Aztec HS, Aztec, N.M.
The coaching staff believes he will probably start in the bullpen and eventually move to a starter’s role. He can hit the low 90s on the mound and originally verbally committed to Texas Tech but eventually decided to stay in-state. He has great stuff and pitching Spencer believes he’s going to be really impressive a year from now.
Tyler Gibson, RHP – NMMI, Albuquerque
A big righty (6’4, 220), he has a very good arm who’s only going to continue to improve with more experience. He played both ways at New Mexico Military Institute. He hit .264 and went 6-8 in 14 games, including 13 starts, last season and threw two complete games.
Mike Gould, RHP – Tacoma CC, Bonney Lake, Wash.
A transfer who will only be a sophomore in the spring, he has tremendous angle due to this size (6’6, 225) and is a “big ole donkey” according to Spencer. He’ll throw even harder with more experience and Spencer believes he has a chance to be really good.
Kirby McGuire, OF/INF – Round Rock HS, Round Rock, Texas
Somewhat small but he is a tremendous athlete that Birmingham calls Pete Rose because he gets after it all the time. He is named after former Minnesota Twin great Kirby Puckett. He committed early and Jacome feels the Lobos got lucky as he could have played for any school in Texas. As a senior he was named to Texas’s 16-5A All-District Team who was also honorable mention All-State. He has a chance to play right away in either the outfield or the infield.
Andrew McWilliam, 1B/3B – Westview HS, San Diego, Calif.
A tall (6’5, 185) corner infielder, who is “skinny as fungo” according to assistant Jacome, also played basketball in high school. As a senior he hit .429 with four home runs, eight doubles and 34 RBI. The coaching staff believes he will be even better now that he is focusing solely on baseball and once he fills out his frame. His dad is a scout for the Detroit Tigers.
Lane Milligan, C – Cherry Creek HS, Denver, Colo.
Milligan is a lefty hitter with power who throws well and comes from a great program. He was named to the Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason West Region All High School Senior First Team prior to the 2013 season after hitting .400 as a junior and leading Cherry Creek to the 5A state title. He’s a very athletic catcher and has the ability to play other positions. As a senior he hit .554 with four HRs and 35 RBI as senior as Cherry Creek reached state semifinals and was ranked as high as No. 4 nationally. Following the season he was named to Denver Post’s All-Colorado Team and will have lots of power once he fills out his frame (6’2, 185).
Matt Reyes, INF – Midland College, Midland, Texas
A very fast runner, he hit .351 with 18 SB, 46 RBI and 78 runs last season. The run total ranked him fourth in the NJCAA. He led his team with 32 walks and also had a .457 OBP, so he is a huge stolen base threat.
Connor Rusch, RHP – Juanita HS, Seattle, Wash.
Played shortstop primarily in high school so he’s green, but he has a good arm and will be better with more experience. He gets a ton of movement from his pitches and his uncle, Glendon Rusch, used to pitch in the big leagues. He was named by coaches and fellow players to the KINGCO 3A/2A First Team both as a junior and senior.
Preston Ryan, RHP – McClintock HS, Tempe, Ariz.
Prior to the 2013 season he was named to the Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason West Region All High School Senior Second Team. He then struck out 59 in 66 innings over 14 appearances as a senior, while also hitting .341, to earn All-Tribune All-State honorable mention. He has a good arm who can touch 93 mph, and he will most likely pitch out of the bullpen this spring.
Carson Schneider, LHP – Sandia HS, Albuquerque
He won 10 games with a 1.92 ERA and 64 strikeouts as a senior after being named Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason West Region All High School Senior Honorable Mention prior to the season. His senior year earned him All-USA New Mexico Baseball Team honors. The staff feels he is going to be really good. He’ll be good as a freshman but great as a junior. He’s a Bobby LaFromboise clone (who pitched at UNM and is now in Triple-A in Seattle’s system) with a low-3/4 arm slot. He also played with the Albuquerque Baseball Academy and has a chance to pitch a lot as a freshman. He’s loose, long, and tall and will pitch in the spring.
Aaron Siple, CF – Gateway CC, Tempe, Ariz.
A leadoff hitter, last season he hit .342 with 40 runs and ranked third in the NJCAA with 29 steals after having 42 steals his freshman year. He was fifth in the NJCAA with a .482 OBP as a sophomore. Hit .411 as a senior at Corona del Sol HS and scored 25 times in 92 plate appearances. Baseball America ranked him as the ninth best prospect in the Jayhawk League this summer. Defensively Jacome feels he’s as good an outfielder as the Lobos are ever going to have because his speed helps him cover lots of ground. He has two years of junior college play under his belt so he is plenty experienced and ready to play right away.
Colton Thomson, LHP – Scottsdale CC, Gilbert, Ariz.
He went 10-3 with 113 strikeouts and a 1.16 ERA in 101 innings as his team advanced to the NJCAA World Series. He has really good stuff and profiles as a weekend starter for the Lobos. On Feb. 8 of last season he threw a no-hitter against Southern Nevada. He hit the first batter of the game on an 0-2 pitch and was perfect the rest of the way. He struck out10 and needed only 88 pitches to complete the performance.
Andre Vigil 2B/3B – Volcano Vista HS, Albuquerque
A very athletic player, he was also recruited by schools like Virginia Tech and Pitt. He was named the Gatorade 2012-13 New Mexico Baseball Player of the Year after breaking the state’s career home run record. He hit .394 with six home runs, 24 runs, 24 RBI and a .676 slugging percentage as a senior, leading the Hawks (18-9) to the Class 5A quarterfinals this past season and a third straight First Team All-State selection. On the mound, he posted a 5-1 record with a 1.70 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched to earn All-USA New Mexico Baseball Team honors. Before the 2013 season he was named to the Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason West Region All High School Senior Second Team.
Jack Zoellner, 1B/3B – Gilbert HS, Gilbert, Ariz.
A big power hitter who was named to the 2013 Gilbert All-District team by the area’s coaches after leading the state in home runs with 12. Also a 2013 All-Tribune honoree, he hit .500 with 45 RBI and a 1.609 OPS. He can play either corner infield position.