SAN JOSE, Calif. – A hot start powered the University of New Mexico baseball team to an 11-6 win and sweep of the Spartans Saturday afternoon. The Lobos (30-11-1, 14-4) scored five runs in each of the first two innings to jump out and not look back as they became the first team all season to sweep a three-game series from the Spartans (12-28, 6-15).
That marks eight straight wins for the Lobos, who have their best record at this point in the season since the 2009 squad was 31-11.
“This was a huge weekend for us,” head coach Ray Birmingham said. “This league is a grind and you can’t take anyone for granted. Top to bottom this is a great league.”
Josh Walker (6-2) earned the victory for career win No. 25. That moved him into sole possession of second place on UNM’s all-time wins list. He struck out two and did not walk a batter in 7.1 innings. Like always, he was around the plate and in control as he threw 74 of his 103 pitches for strikes.
The win moved UNM four games up in the loss column on second place UNLV, which was swept this weekend at Air Force. The Lobos will travel to Las Vegas to face the Rebels for three big games next weekend.
Sam Haggerty got things started in the first with a leadoff walk. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt ahead of another walk, this time to Chase Harris. A flyout by Alex Real moved Haggerty to third and that’s when the Lobos continued their excellent hitting with two outs. Jack Zoellner lined a single to left to score Haggerty, and John Pustay followed with another single to left on an 0-2 pitch to score Harris. Andre Vigil doubled over the right fielder’s head to score a pair, and Jered Meek finished the scoring with a three-base hit to left center, which was the first triple of his career.
The Spartans fought back in the bottom of the first, though, scoring three runs on five hits, although none were hit hard off Walker.
But, as they’ve been wont to do lately, the Lobos answered. They put up another five spot, again on four hits. With one out Aaron Siple lined a single to left center, and Chase Harris reached on an error by SJSU’s shortstop. Alex Real then roped his 18th double of the season down the left-field line to score both runners. After Zoellner walked, Pusty smashed a double off the wall in right center to score Real and put men on second and third. Vigil then popped a ball up behind the second baseman that was caught, and Zoellner alertly raced home on the sacrifice fly. Meek then walked and Lane Milligan closed the scoring with an RBI single to center to knock in Pustay.
After scoring 13 of their 19 runs in Friday’s doubleheader with two outs, the Lobos added seven more two-out runs Saturday.
The Spartans added a single run in the fourth, but Walker really settled in and limited SJSU to four hits over the next 6.1innings until back-to-back solo home runs with one out in the eighth.
The Lobos answered again, though, and tacked on one more in the ninth on Haggerty’s sacrifice fly that scored Vigil. Vigil led the Lobos with three hits and three RBIs. He was also one of four Lobos to score two runs.
“Coach B(irmingham) worked with me and told me to keep at it,” the freshman said. “That’s what I did and I had a pretty good day at the plate. We all did really.”
Real and Pustay each also had a pair of hits and a pair of RBIs. Lane Milligan went 2-for-4 with an RBI out of the nine hole in the lineup.
Before the Lobos will face UNLV, though, UNM first returns home to take on Texas Tech Monday afternoon at 2 at Lobo Field. ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM will broadcast the game and it will also be streamed live at GoLobos.com.
“Texas Tech would be a huge win for us,” Birmingham said. “We can’t look ahead because that would really help our RPI. But our goal, and what we have to do, is win the Mountain West championship. We want our fourth straight.”
Vigil believes the team just needs to stay the course.
“We need to just keep grinding and get after it in practice,” he said. “We need to keep working hard and good things will happen.”
Notes: Harris has started all 101 of UNM’s game the past two seasons in right field … Haggerty made his 90th straight start and has played in all 101 games the last two seasons as well … Taylor Duree made his 20th appearance of the season, which leads the team.