ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Sparked by a four-run sixth inning and backed by solid relief work by Kevin Baumgartner, the University of New Mexico baseball team (13-7-1) earned a solid 6-3 win over No. 18 Tuesday night in front of 650 fans at Lobo Field.
Baumgartner hurled a season-high 3.2 innings and allowed just one run on one hit and one walk while striking out two. Most important, though, was his ability to throw strikes, as 25 of his 38 pitches found the strike zone.
“My main goal was to get out there, throw strikes and let my pitches work for themselves,” the senior lefty said.
The southpaw from Phoenix came on in relief of freshman righty Preston Ryan, who allowed seven hits in a season-high 3.1 innings, but they were all singles and he limited the damage by inducing a double play in each of the first two innings.
“He’s a good freshman arm that has to learn how to pitch,” head coach Ray Birmingham said of his starter. “As hard as (pitching coach Dan) Spencer works him, he should be able to throw a strike in his sleep.”
UNM opened the scoring in the first. Sam Haggerty led off with a single up the middle. He stole second, and when the throw from the catcher sailed into center field, he advanced to third. Alex Real then drove him home with an RBI groundout.
The Jayhawks (14-6) tied the game in the fourth and chased Ryan. It looked like Kansas might take control of the game, but on his second pitch Baumgartner induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
It was a big moment in the game because after Haggerty’s run in the first, the Lobos didn’t manage anything off KU’s starter, Drew Morovick, over the next three innings. The righty set down 12 straight Lobos to keep the game close.
“He was throwing strikes and mixing it up,” Ryan Padilla said. “Once we settled down and started hitting our pitches, we got him out of the game and good things started happening for us.”
Padilla was the one who broke the streak and got jump-started the UNM offense. He sharply singled to right on the first pitch he saw in the fifth, taking advantage of the fact that Morovick was always around the plate.
“The pitch was a changeup and I just stayed through it,” he said. “I’ve been having trouble with those pitches lately, but I got there and it was something to build up my confidence going into the rest of the game.”
Following Padilla’s base hit, Jared Holley reached on an infield single. A throwing error by KU’s second baseman allowed Padilla to move to third, and Andre Vigil drove him home with a sacrifice fly to right.
The Lobos’ big inning, though, came in the sixth.
Chase Harris got the rally started with a one-out single up the middle on a 3-2 pitch. Real then perfectly executed a hit-and-run with a single to left that sent Harris to third. Harris was then able to score on John Pustay’s RBI groundout.
Padilla followed with a walk and Holley singled to right to score Real. Padilla advanced to third on the throw, and KU’s catcher committed his second error of the game by sailing a throw over the third baseman’s head, which allowed Padilla to score with ease. That forced the Jayhawks to go to their bullpen, but the inning wasn’t done. Vigil lashed a 1-1 pitch over the first baseman’s head for a single that allowed Holley to score and give UNM a 6-1 lead.
Baumgartner’s only real trouble of the game came the following inning. He hit KU’s leadoff batter on the foot with a 1-2 breaking ball that gave the Jayhawks some life. He walked the next batter on four pitches and it looked like Lobo pitching coach Dan Spencer might go to the bullpen, but Baumgartner dug deep.
“When something bad happens I need to be able to focus,” he said. “I can’t let what just happened bother me. I have to focus on the hitter and minimize the damage.”
That’s exactly what he did. A sacrifice bunt moved both men into scoring position, and a sacrifice fly drove in a run, but he struck out the next batter looking on a nasty curve to end the inning.
“He was really good except for that breaking ball that hit the guy in the foot,” Birmingham said. “He minimized the damage.”
The Lobos needed three pitchers to get through the eighth, though, which is indicative of how midweek games usually go for UNM.
“That’s what it’s going to have to be with this group,” Birmingham said. “You never know who’s going to get hot.”
A.J. Carman walked two of the first three hitters he faced, and Carson Schneider gave up a looping single to his only batter, but Taylor Duree induced a popup to Haggerty at second and struck out a man with the bases loaded to preserve the lead.
Jake Cole then came on and pitched a perfect ninth to earn his second save.
Padilla doubled down the left-field line in the eighth to finish with two hits and two runs scored.
“I was looking to take the ball the other way, not do too much, and I got to it and got the double,” the Albuquerque native said.
Holley and Siple also finished with two hits apiece, and Vigil drove in a pair of runs to lead the Lobos.
Birmingham is pleased with how his team is playing of late, coming off a three-game sweep at Fresno State last weekend.
“That’s four game in a row now that we’ve beat a team that has been nationally ranked,” he said. “San Diego, Arizona State and Texas Tech have all been nationally ranked too. Our schedule is in the top 25 in the country and our RPI is in the top 50. That’s pretty good for a young ballclub. We’re doing it with a little bit of this, a little bit of that and a little bit of everything. We’re doing nothing outstanding. We’re just executing the game right.”
The teams will meet Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Lobo Field. Sophomore righty Mike Gould will make his second start. Fans can watch a live stream at www.GoLobos.com or listen to the game on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM.
Notes: UNM is now 10-0 this season when scoring more than five runs … Danny Collier stole his third base of the season ... Haggerty’s steal was his fifth, setting a new career high … Padilla’s double was his fifth of the season.