June 29, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – One thing has become abundantly clear over the 13-year history of the Mountain West: the Lobos can hit. The numbers speak for themselves.
UNM hitters have dominated the conference since its inaugural season in 2000 as the Lobos have led the league in hitting eight times: 2008 (conference play only); 2003, 2006, 2010 (overall games only); and 2000, 2002, 2009, and 2012 (both conference play and overall games). They also own the four highest single season team averages in MW history: .363 in 2009, .346 in 2010, .345 in 2003, and .345 in 2002.
By looking at those numbers it should come as no surprise that UNM holds the highest batting average of all conference teams in the history of the Mountain West. The Lobos have hit .323 since 2000, and no other MW team is close to them. UNLV has hit .311, San Diego State owns a .298 average, and Air Force has a .291 average. The TCU Horned Frogs, who joined the MW in 2006 and are leaving for the Big 12 next season, hit .307 in their seven years in the league. Former members BYU and Utah, which were in the league from 2000-2011, hit .312 and .310, respectively, during their time in the conference.
The Lobos have had five seasons of at least 700 hits since 2000, which is the same number the four other 2012 members have combined. UNM has also only had one season in which it failed to record at least 625 hits. The other four teams have 24 such seasons, and if you include Utah and BYU that number balloons to 34.
But the Lobos haven’t just dominated Mountain West leaderboards over the past 13 seasons. They have also been at or near the top of the NCAA rankings, posting seven top-15 finishes since 2000: .335 (9th in Division I) in 2000; .345 (3rd) in both 2002 and 2003; .324 (14th) in 2006; .363 (1st) in 2009; .346 (8th) in 2010; and .326 (5th) in 2012.
Additionally, five UNM players have led the Mountain West in batting in conference games, overall, or both. No other current or former conference member can claim as many: Ian Hollick hit .442 in 2006 and Jordan Pacheco hit .454 in 2007 to lead during conference play; Rafael Neda hit .457 in conference play and .415 overall in 2008 to lead both categories; Justin Howard hit .456 overall in 2010 to lead the conference and set a new MW record; and DJ Peterson hit .446 in conference games and .419 overall to lead both categories.
Howard’s average in 2010 not only led the MW, but it also led the entire NCAA. In fact, in the last nine years the Lobos have had 10 players finish the season ranked in the top 50 for batting: DJ Peterson (.419, 5th) and Mitchell Garver (.377, 38th) in 2012; Justin Howard (.456, 1st) in 2010; Rafael Neda (.415, 32nd), Mike Brownstein (.414, 34th), and Ryan Honeycutt (.406, 47th) in 2009; Jordan Pacheco (.397, 44th) in 2007; Pacheco (.408, 18th) and Chris Carlson (.395, 35th) in 2005; and Josh Mader (.395, 36th) in 2004.
When you add it all up you get the best hitting program in the history of the Mountain West.