Lobos Head to Vegas With Championship Goals
May 22, 2012
Lobo Baseball - Mountain West Conference Tournament at Earl E. Wilson Stadium
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- UNM heads to Las Vegas, Nev., in search of its second straight Mountain West Tournament championship and third straight NCAA appearance. The Lobos earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament and a share of the conference title when they defeated Air Force 11-5 on Saturday, May 19. TCU, who shared the championship with UNM, is the No. 2 seed, San Diego State is the No. 3 seed, and host school UNLV is seeded fourth. The Lobos entered last season's conference tournament as the No. 6 seed, lowest in the tournament, and proceded to win four games in as many days to earn a berth in the NCAA regionals. This year UNM hopes to repeat the result but to do so from a position of strength. This is the first time since the 2000 season that the Lobos enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed. The Lobos dominated the MW at the plate. They led the league in 13 individual categories and also 13 team categories.
LOBO BASEBALL QUICK HITS
• Regular season co-champs ... The Lobos clinched a share of their first regu- lar-season championship since 2000 with Saturday’s 11-5 win over Air Force. It also gave them 33 wins on the season, and they have now won at least 30 games in four of the past five seasons. It is their best stretch since they won at least 31 games every year between 1977 and 1980. One more win will tie them for the ninth-most wins in a single season in program history.
• Scouting the Mountain West ... The Lobos finished tied with TCU atop the MW regular-season standings but claimed the No. 1 seed in the tournament on tie-breakers. San Diego State finished third in the conference with a 12-12 record, six games behind UNM and TCU. Fourth-seeded and tournament host UNLV finished conference play with a 7-17 record. But as the Lobos proved last year, no team should be taken lightly and everybody has a chance. Each team in the tournament beat every other team at least once this season.
• Scouting UNLV ... The Rebels are coming off a three-game sweep of Sacramento State to end their regular season. They are a strong offensive team with seven regulars hitting over .300. Junior outfielder Brandon Bayardi, the team’s main power threat, leads the way with a .365 average. Freshman pitcher Erick Fedde posted a 2.63 ERA, a 6-4 record, and 66 strikeouts to lead the Rebel pitching staff. He was the winning pitcher in the Lobos’ last defeat, a 7-4 setback at UNLV on May 11. The Lobos finished with a 5-1 record against the Rebels this season.
• Scouting TCU ... The Horned Frogs, coming off a series win over San Diego St., are led by their pitching staff. Freshman Preston Morrison is coming off a one-hit shutout of the Aztecs. He is 9-0 on the season and has a stellar 1.55 ERA. Fellow starters Andrew Mitchell and Stefan Crich- ton are no slouches either, posting 2.97 and 3.47 ERAs, respectively. Mitchell led the conference with 90 strikeouts. Reliever Kevin Allen recorded a 1.23 ERA and five saves in 25 appearances. Offensively TCU is led by senior outfielder Jason Coats and junior catcher Josh Elander. Coats hit .326 with six home runs and 45 RBIs, while Elander contributed with a .319 average, seven home runs and 34 RBIs. UNM went 3-3 against the Horned Frogs.
• Scouting San Diego State ... The Aztecs are solid both offensively and on the mound. Tim Zier led the team in the batter’s box with a .318 average, while Chris Wilson provided the most power with nine home runs and 33 RBIs. Closer Justin Hepner is the team’s best pitcher. In 20 appearances, including three starts, he posted a 2.86 ERA, a 4-2 record, seven saves, and 47 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings. Freshman Michael Cederoth led the team with 59 punchouts. The Lobos posted a 5-1 record against the Aztecs.
• We really are New Mexico ... The 2012 New Mexico baseball team has 13 players from the state of New Mexico. It is no secret coach Ray Birmingham wants to take local kids all the way to Omaha. Ever since he got to UNM, he has been a big advocate of recruiting the best local talent New Mexico has to offer.
• UNM top 40 in attendance ... The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association released its 14th weekly attendance report of the season and the New Mexico Lobos have come in at No. 38 following their home series against Air Force.
• Watch out for Peterson and Garver ... Sophomore DJ Peterson has been named to USA Baseball’s mid-season watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the best amateur baseball player in the nation. He is also a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Award, also given to the nation’s top player. Junior catcher Mitchell Garver has been named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List. The award is given annually to the nation’s top collegiate catcher based on athletic ability, sportsmanship, team leadership and character.
• Historic season ... The Lobos had one of their best seasons ever in conference play. Their 18-6 record marks the second-best winning percentage in conference play, behind only 1953’s 10-2 team. The six conference losses for UNM is also the fewest by the Lobos since 1979 (11-5).
• Padilla wins POW ... Freshman and Albuquerque-native Ryan Padilla was named Mountain West Player of the Week on May 21. He hit .588 (10-17) over the week with five runs scored and 10 RBIs, including his first career grand slam in Thursday’s 22-4 win over Air Force. This is the 12th time this season a Lobo has been honored, which extends the new school record. The previous best was nine in 2000.
• Career appearances leaders ... Senior Rudy Jaramillo made his 62nd career appearance on the mound against Air Force on Saturday, May 19. That ties him for fifth all-time at UNM. Fellow senior Gera Sanchez is also closing in on a top-five position. He made his 60th appearance on Saturday
• Climbing the rankings ... UNM has improved its RPI and is now sitting at No. 62. Also, Perfect Game has the Lobos ranked 48th in their latest poll. The Lobos are playing some of their hottest ball of the season at the exact right time. They have won six-in-a-row and 16 of their past 20. They are also receiving votes in the NCBWA weekly poll.
• Wins for Birmingham ... UNM head coach Ray Birmingham recorded his 975th career win Saturday, May 12, when the Lobos defeated UNLV 10-7. The Lobos have clinched a winning record this season, and it is the 21st time in the past 22 years that Birmingham has guided a team to a winning record.
• Late-inning mastery ... The Lobos have yet to lose a game this season when they have taken a lead into the seventh inning, posting a perfect 27-0 record. They have been particularly dominant in the seventh inning, outscoring opponents 61-20 in that frame.
• Two-strike hitting ... Sixteen of the Lobos’ 39 home runs this season have come with two strikes: DJ Peterson (eight of his 14 total), Mitchell Garver (2/10), John Pustay (2/3), Josh Melendez’ (1/3), Alex Real (1/2), and Alex Allbritton (1/1) have all hit a two-strike home run this season.
• Career years ... Five UNM players are currently experiencing career-highs in batting averages in 2012: DJ Peterson (.422), Mitchell Garver (.394), Ben Woodchick (.333), Kyle Stiner (.298), and Trey Porras (.315). Also, three UNM pitchers have career-low ERAs this season: Gera Sanchez (2.42), Austin House (3.20), and Alexis Gar- za (4.72).
• Pitching as a team ... As of May 21 the Lobos’ team ERA stands at 4.57, which would be the lowest team ERA UNM has had since producing a 4.13 mark in 1977. The staff has also struck out 423 batters, which is the second-most in program history behind only 469 Ks in 1968. Gera Sanchez and Austin House are leading the way with 83 and 79 Ks respectively, and 11 pitchers on the staff have at least 17 Ks.
• Situational hitting ... The Lobos are hitting an astonishing .673 (113-168) with a runner on third and less than two outs. They are also hitting .423 (30-71) with the bases loaded, and .351 (248-706) with two outs.
• Follow my lead ... The Lobos have had their leadoff man reach in 202 of the 484 innings they’ve played so far this season. That is an on-base percentage of .417.
• Conference leaders ... Following their game against NMSU, the Lobos lead the Mountain West in 13 individual offensive categories, with sophomore first baseman DJ Peterson leading the way in six: batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, home runs, RBI, and total bases. Junior Mitchell Garver leads the conference in doubles, hits, at bats, and total plate appearances. Josh Melendez leads in runs scored, triples, steals and steal attempts. As a team they lead the league in 13 categories: batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, hits, runs batted in, triples, home runs, total bases, sacrifice flies, stolen bases, steal attempts, and they have the fewest strikeouts. Their pitching staff leads the conference in both total strikeouts and batters struck out looking and is tied with TCU for allowing the fewest triples. Austin House leads the league in innings pitched and is tied for first in batters struck out looking.