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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Baseball: Lobo Field open for the season

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By Rachel Toraño-Mark / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Lobo senior outfielder Chase Harris warms up before the LaSalle game at Isotopes Park on March 6, 2013. UNM’s baseball team will open the season at home on Feb. 21 at the Lobo field against Northern Illinois at 4 p.m.

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It will be a homecoming of sorts for the New Mexico baseball team on Friday.

UNM will host the Lobo Invite at Lobo Field this weekend, which will mark the first time the venue will hold a home opener since the 2003 season.

For the largest part of the past nine seasons, UNM played a majority of its games at Isotopes Park.

Lobo Field received a $3.5 million renovation last year that included a new turf field, scoreboard, dugouts, bullpens, bleacher and lights that were put in this past fall.

“The big thing for me is that it is an indicator of where we’re moving,” head coach Ray Birmingham said. “We have a nice field now. Our field, inside the field, inside the ball park is as nice as anybody’s in the country. We also have lights. That’s a big deal.”

UNM returned to Lobo Field permanently last season on March 24. The Lobos went 14-2 at home, winning 11 straight games to finish off the year.

“It’s really cool that we’re moving our facility to look like a Division I facility,” Birmingham said. “To look like a facility that’s been four out of six years. The facility’s the last thing that needs to happen for us to become that dominant team all the time.”

The Lobos are coming off a 7-1 win at No. 19 Arizona State on Tuesday. That victory came right after UNM wrapped up its first opening series of the year at San Diego, where the Lobos lost two of three games against the Toreros.

Birmingham said he was pleased with how UNM (2-2) responded after getting demolished 17-2 on Sunday by USD.

“Tuesday was a big deal for me to see if they bought into the Lobo way,” Birmingham said. “We schedule every year to get punched in the nose. Just like in life, it’s how you respond by getting punched in the nose is a big deal. Everybody needs to get punched in the nose every once in a while.”

The first tournament at the new Lobo Field this weekend will consist of Missouri State (2-1) and Northern Illinois (0-3).

The Bears won two out of three at the University of Central Arkansas to start the season. Sophomore lefty Matt Hall and senior right Clay Murphy are scheduled to start against UNM.

As for the Huskies, they were swept by Minnesota in their season-opening series. Northern Illinois hit just .257 against Minnesota during the sweep. Pitcher Dirk Ormbsy is scheduled to take the mound versus the Lobos on Friday. Ormsby lasted just 0.1 innings vs. the Gophers, giving up one run on two hits. Senior pitcher Alex Klonowski will be Sunday’s starter for Northern Illinois.

“We’re very excited. It was a tough first week on the road. It was a long one,” outfielder John Putsay said. “It’s good for us to get our feet wet and have a nice little tournament here.”