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Monday, December 22, 2014

Baseball: UNM a well rounded team

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By Rachel Toraño-Mark / New Mexico Daily Lobo

UNM pitcher Taylor Duree celebrates with his teammates after the Lobos scored a run during Sunday’s game against Northern Illinois. The Lobos host Northern Colorado this weekend at Lobo Field.

sports@dailylobo.com
@ThomasRomeroS

Typically, offense has carried the New Mexico baseball team.
Through two weeks of the 2014 season, the Lobos’ pitching staff has changed that narrative.

With the exception of one game, a 17-2 thrashing by San Diego on Feb. 16, UNM has allowed no more than 6 runs in seven of its eight games played for a 4-3-1 record.

Outfielder Chase Harris, who leads the team in RBI (11) and hits (13), said the offense does not have as much of a burden as in past seasons.

“Not to talk down on everybody, but we weren’t as consistent as a staff (last season). This year I feel like we have so many more options to where it doesn’t really matter who we put in the game. We feel really confident behind them,” he said. “The pitching staff just as a whole, I feel is so far in front of where we were last year and we’re only at the beginning of the season.”

Last year, UNM did not have much pitching depth at all and had only two legitimate starters by season end in Josh Walker and former Lobo Sam Wolff. The 2013 Lobo staff had a collective ERA of 4.95 which ranked near the bottom of the NCAA.

Eight games into the season, the pitching staff has lowered its ERA to 4.19, but opposing hitters are only batting .227 against the Lobos.

“We’ve got a young squad and if there’s any veterans they are on the mound, than they are in the positions,” head coach Ray Birmingham said. “Pitching-wise I feel like we’re pretty good. I think that our pitching will have to carry us for a while. We’re not going to hit like we did last year. Last year, was an incredible year for offense.”

UNM’s offense is off to a solid start, averaging 4.9 runs per game with a batting average of .289.

Birmingham said he is not worried about the hitting, but he does want his young team to be more consistent.

“We’re hitting okay. We’re hitting good for most programs, but we’re not hitting like we usually do,” he said. “It’s because of the youth. They get in the game and they get nervous and they do silly stuff.”

Northern Colorado (2-6) will be the next team to test UNM’s youth. The Bears are coming off a series win over Colorado Mesa as they earned their first two victories of the season.

Outfielder Jake Ekman is the Bears top hitter. He leads the team in batting (.414) and slugging (.483).

On the mound, pitcher Chris Hammer paces the team in innings pitched (14) and strikeouts (nine) to go along with a team-best 3.14 ERA.

Walker Player of the Week

UNM starting pitcher Josh Walker was named Mountain West Player of the Week after throwing nine shutout innings against Missouri State on Sunday in a 7-0 win.

The award is Walker’s second such honor of his career.

Parking Change

Fans who are going to attend Saturday’s double-header against UNC will need to park in the dirt parking lots to the south and enter the stadium from the south entrance of Lobo Field.

This is due to a scheduling conflict with the women’s basketball game at 2 p.m. The starting time for first game of the double-header has also been changed from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Admission is free to both games.