Lobo Baseball - at Municipal Stadium
When: Thursday - 7 p.m. (MT), Friday - 7 p.m. (MT), Saturday - 2 p.m. (MT)
Who: San José State Spartans
GoLobos.com: Live stats,box score, live stream, postgame recap and stats
Video: Each game will be streamed live at GoLobos.com
Mountain West Standings
|Place||School||MW record||Overall record|
|4||San Diego St.||10-8||26-11|
|6||San José St.||6-12||
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico baseball team takes its first-place record into San Jose, Calif., as the Lobos will visit the SJSU Spartans for the first time since 1999. UNM swept Fresno State last weekend to take over first place in the Mountain West after UNLV took two of three from SJSU. UNM has played three fewer games than the Rebels but are in first thanks to percentage points.
In order to ensure they remain in first, the Lobos will need to do something no team has done to the Spartans this season: sweep them. Nobody in the Mountain West has been able to, and neither could No. 17 UC Santa Barbara or the PAC-12's Washington State. The Spartans have proved their mettle by taking at least one game in each series this season.
UNM, though, is brimming with confidence. Winners of five straight and eight of their last nine, the Lobos are playing as well as they have all season, and the timing couldn't be better. As they enter the last third of their schedule, every win is vital, especially considering that 15 of their last 17 games are against conference opponents.
"We can't take steps backwards," said head coach Ray Birmingham. "We have to move forward. San Jose State and Nevada are going to be difference-makers towards the end. San Diego State is no slouch either. Fresno State is going to get hot again because they're very talented. It's going to go down to the wire."
• SCOUTING SAN JOSE STATE ... The Spartans have not been swept in a series all season and own wins over No. 17 UC Santa Barbara, San Diego State and two against No. 20 UNLV.
“They’re one of those teams that’s going to beat you if you don’t play really good baseball,” Birmingham said. “They never let up. They’ve got talent, they compete, they play baseball the right away, they’ve got a great coach and it’s going to be hard.”
Despite hitting just .251 heading into their game Tuesday night against Santa Clara, the Spartans had some success at Lobo Field earlier this season. Matt Lopez (.545), Jacob Valdez (.462) and Alex De Watteville (.462) all had a fantastic weekend when UNM took two out of three from SJSU March 21-23. Freshman outfielder Brett Bautisita has been the most dangerours Spartan hitter this season, though. He leads the team with a .308 mark and is tied for second with eight doubles. Matt Carroll, meanwhile, is hitting just .255 but has three of the team’s five home runs.
That same weekend the Lobos pounded SJSU’s pitching staff to the tune of a .374 average and 24 runs in 25.0 innings. Lobo hitters also struck out just five times. Kalei Contrades has been the Spartans’ best pitcher in 2014. He is 2-2 with a 3.05 ERA and a 9/2 KK/BB ratio in 41.1 innings. UNM did batter him for five runs, two earned, in its 9-4 win March 23, however.
• YOUTH IS SERVED... Of UNM’s top seven 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 23-0 when leading after six and 24-0 when leading after eight thanks to an outstanding bullpen. Lobo relievers own a 3.30 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 1-0 with a team-leading six saves in 12 relief appearances this season. He has struck out 16 and allowed just two runs in 17.1 relief innings. Freshman Carson Schneider is UNM’s go-to lefty out of the pen, having made 15 relief appearances and owning a 1.69 ERA over 16.0 innings. Sophomore Taylor Duree has been the workhorse, leading the team with 18 relief appearances and 24.1 innings out of the pen. He is 2-0 with one save and a 2.59 ERA. Junior Jake Cole is 2-0 with three saves and a 2.78 ERA in 13 relief appearances spanning 22.2 innings. He is the Lobos’ strikeout leader out of the pen, fanning 26 batters on the year.
• HAGGERTY, WALKER SWEEP MW WEEKLY AWARDS ... Sam Haggerty was named Mountain West Player of the Week and Josh Walker earned Mountain West Pitcher of the Week honors Monday as UNM came off a 5-0 week with a pair of wins over Stephen F. Austin and a series sweep at home against Fresno State. It’s the second career honor for Haggerty, and the third -- second this season -- for Walker.
Haggerty hit .500 (11-for-22) and finished the week with eight runs scored, seven RBIs, a double, a triple, a home run, two stolen bases, a .773 slugging percentage and a .542 OBP.
Walker earned his 24th career win by limiting Fresno State to four hits, and none after the fifth inning, in a 4-1 complete game-victory Sunday. The Preseason All-American is now tied for second all-time in wins at UNM.
He struck out a season-high four and walked just one as he threw 80 of his 119 pitches for strikes. Walker was masterful keeping the ball down as he recorded 14 groundball outs on his way to his second complete game of the year.
• CHASING HARRIS ... With all the offensive talent UNM lost from last season’s team, the Lobos needed Chase Harris to become The Man for them in 2014, and that is exactly what he has done. He currently leads the nation in at bats with 170 (followed closely by Sam Haggerty in second with 165) and and is third in hits with 62. He also ranks tied for third in the country with 45 RBIs. Meanwhile his 90 total bases is tops in the Mountain West, as are his 19 multi-hit games and 10 multi-RBI games, while his .362 average ranks second. He also leads the Lobos in home runs with five, triples with four, slugging (.529) and stolen bases (10).
• WE WERE ONLY FRESHMEN ... The Lobos have received key contributions from many first-year players in 2014, but Danny Collier and Andre Vigil stand above the rest. Despite not starting when the season began, they now rank second and fourth on the team in batting at .342 and .324, respectively. Collier has reached base in all 28 of his starts while walking more than he has struck out. He has also leads the team with three outfield assists, including two at home plate: one against SJSU on March 22 and one at Stephen F. Austin on April 9.
Vigil, meanwhile, is third on the team with six multi-RBI games, and had a 10-game hitting streak from March 14 to March 28. He hit .450 (18-for-40) during that stretch with nine runs, 12 RBIs and three doubles. He had five multi-hit games and struck out just three times in 44 plate appearances. He also continues to lead the Mountain West in batting in conference games, hitting a crsip .438 (21-for-48).
• THE MAGIC NUMBER ... Six appears to be UNM’s magic number for both the offense and pitching staff this season. The Lobos are 21-0 when scoring at least six runs and 22-2-1 when holding the opponent under six runs.