ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball program will jump right into the fire in 2014 as it begins its quest for a fifth straight NCAA regional appearance. The Lobos open with four tough games on the road as head coach Ray Birmingham and his staff announced the team’s 2014 schedule Wednesday.
“We’re going to have a young club next year,” Birmingham said, “and we open with four games against top-tier teams. It’s a hard schedule again.”
The Lobos open play against a pair of teams that made a regional in 2013. Beginning Feb. 14 the Lobos open a three-game series at the University of San Diego before traveling to Tempe, Ariz., for a single game at Arizona State on Feb. 18.
The Lobos and Sun Devils are old foes, having played each other nearly 150 times over the past 63 years, but UNM has only met the Toreros on the field once: a 4-0 UNM victory at the UCLA regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
The home slate begins with something that has not yet happened in Birmingham’s tenure: a home tournament. UNM will welcome Missouri State and Northern Illinois to Lobo Field for the Lobo Invite Feb. 21-23.
“This is hopefully just the beginning,” Birmingham said of the three-team tournament. “We want to get a sponsor and have had (very preliminary) talks with ESPN to expand it into a sort of Kickoff Baseball Classic (in upcoming years). The idea is to use both Lobo Field and Isotopes Park in future seasons for the tournament. We hope to one day do that.”
The Lobos have 31 home games scheduled at Lobo Field in 2014, where the team posted a 14-2 record last season. In addition to the Lobo Invite, UNM has non-conference home weekend series against Northern Colorado and Jacksonville State, a two-game midweek series versus Kansas, and single midweek games against Texas Tech, Utah Valley and Rio Grande Rival New Mexico State. No UNM games are currently scheduled to be played at Isotopes Park in 2014.
UNM opens conference play with a home series against UNLV March 7-9. The Lobos’ other home conference opponents include Mountain West newcomer, and former WAC opponent, San José State (March 21-23), Fresno State (April 11-13), San Diego State (May 2-4), which advanced to the NCAAs in 2013, and Air Force (May 15-17).
Times for all home games will be released at a later date.
On the road in MW play the Lobos travel to Fresno March 14-16, to Colorado Springs to face Air Force March 28-30, to San José April 17-19, to UNLV April 25-27, and lastly to Reno to face Nevada May 9-11.
Outside of their tough four-game start to the season, UNM’s remaining slate of non-conference road games are at Texas Tech on March 4 and April 1, a return trip to Arizona State on March 12, a game at New Mexico State on March 25, and a two-game series at Stephen F. Austin April 8-9.
In all the Lobos will play 18 games against opponents that made an NCAA regional in either 2012 or 2013.
“It’s going to be very tough road, but we will be in our fifth straight regional,” Birmingham said.
The Lobos finished 37-22 in 2013, including a record-setting 25-5 mark in MW play. UNM won the regular season crown by a record seven games, aided by a 14-game winning streak, also a conference record.
Fans can secure a seat at all 31 home Lobo games by purchasing a Lobo Pride Pass through the UNM Ticket Office or by clicking here. For $50 the Lobo Pride Pass allows the purchaser to attend all ticketed men's soccer, women's soccer, volleyball, track & field, softball and baseball preseason and regular season home games. Call 925-LOBO or head to the Lobo Ticket Office in The Pit for more information. Hours for the ticket office are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Notes: The Lobos will be facing a pair of teams for the first time in 2014: Kansas and Jacksonville State … UNM has not faced Northern Illinois since 1978 … in six games versus San José State the home team has won all six (three wins for the Lobos in 1998 and three wins for the Spartans in 1999) … UNM split a doubleheader against Missouri State at Isotopes Park last season … the Lobos’ are 0-2 vs. Stephen F. Austin, losing both games of a midweek series to the Lumberjacks at Isotopes Park in 2012.