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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lobos trample Cowboys 9-1 for first season win

Victory at Isotopes Park follows two losses to Oklahoma State

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Freshman infielder Jared Holley prepares to take a pitch to the head against Oklahoma State on Saturday at Isotopes Park. The Lobos lost the game 15-14 in 14 innings but rebounded on Sunday by defeating the Cowboys 9-1 to avoid a three-game sweep.

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After dropping its first two games of the season, the No. 21-ranked UNM baseball team bounced back with a 9-1 drubbing of Oklahoma State on Sunday at Isotopes Park.

Senior starting pitcher Sam Wolff (1-0) threw 5 2/3 innings, allowed one run on three hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
Wolff said the off-season work with pitching coach Dan Spencer has paid off.

“The last two nights were tough to watch because I thought we should’ve won both of those games,” he said. “My mentality today was to get after it early.” Head coach Ray Birmingham called Wolff ’s outing the best of his Lobo career.

“It was huge for us,” Birmingham said. “Dan Spencer has done a great job of cleaning up a kid who had been to three different places. This is his fourth pitching coach, and finally Dan Spencer cleaned him up.”

UNM (1-2) struck first when senior catcher Mitch Garver hit an RBI single to plate sophomore outfielder Ryan Padilla, giving the Lobos a 1-0 in the bottom of the first.

The Lobos would go on to score four more runs in the inning with the last one coming off a sacrifice fly by senior shortstop Alex Allbritton.

The Cowboys (2-1) scored their only run of the game in the fourth inning when senior catcher Victor Romero grounded out to first to bring home sophomore right fielder Zach Fish and cut the Lobos’ lead to 6-1.

In the bottom of the sixth, Garver, who went 4-4 with three RBIs and was a home run shy of the cycle, hit a triple to left center field off OSU relief pitcher Vince Wheeland to score two more runs for a commanding 8-1 lead.

Birmingham compared Garver to Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.

“That’s who Mitch Garver is and they don’t make many of him,” Birmingham said. “He’ll be on TV someday; that’s how good he is.”

The Lobos added one more run in the bottom of the eighth thanks to an RBI single by senior designated hitter Luke Campbell for a final score of 9-1.

The Cowboys intentionally walked Lobo junior third baseman DJ Peterson three times this weekend, and every time, Garver, who bats behind Peterson in the lineup, came up with a base hit. Garver said it’s his responsibility to make teams pay for pitching around Peterson.

“That’s why I’m there. I’m there to protect DJ, so if he getson, all I have to do is get the ball in play,” Garver said.

Birmingham said if the Lobos had played on their new turf field instead of the grass field of Isotopes Park, the outcome of the series would have been much different.

“I truly believe that if we had played them at our facility, we would sweep them or have a shot at it,” he said. “Defense was obviously the difference in the first two ball games, and we played good defense today.”

UNM lost the first game of the series 4-2 to OSU on Friday.

On Saturday, the Lobos had a 14-8 eighth-inning lead but ended up losing 15-14 in 13 innings. In the first two games of the series UNM committed seven errors, while on Sunday the team committed just one.