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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Baseball: Lobos secure a 12th inning win from UNLV

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By Rachel Toraño-Mark / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Lobo player Lane Milligan receives praise from head coach Ray Birmingham and his teammates during the game against the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Sunday. The Lobos played 12 innings and won 5-4.

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Timely hitting evaded the New Mexico baseball team against UNLV during Sunday’s 5-4 victory that took 12 innings to complete.

A costly error from right fielder Chase Harris forced UNM to score in the bottom of the 12th inning, and UNM stepped up in walk off fashion.

“We thought we’d be playing good defense, which we’re not,” head coach Ray Birmingham said. “It’s just a young club. You don’t know what they do some days.”

Aside from a three-run third inning, senior pitcher Josh Walker threw an absolute gem through 9 1/3 innings by not allowing a single extra base hit or a walk in 115 pitches thrown. Although the Rebels did accumulate 14 hits against Walker, they couldn’t manage to do any damage with them.

“He’s going to give up a lot of hits, but he ain’t going to give up many runs,” head coach Ray Birmingham said.

Walker said that the third inning rough patch which plated three UNLV Rebels was a scuffle that he had to just work through.

“The little cappers, the little dinks that they had were falling that inning,” Walker said. “The goal is just to battle… runs are going to score every now and then.”

Walker certainly battled throughout the contest, allowing only two earned runs while fanning a pair of Rebels as well.

The win was important to get some momentum, Walker added, after dropping two in a row to UNLV (10-4, 5-1 MW).

“It was good to get one out of the three this weekend. Today was very important,” Walker said. “I’m happy with my performance today, given that it wasn’t my best day.”

UNM was able to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning after Chase Harris beat out a ground ball that was fumbled around by UNLV shortstop Matt McCallister.

Despite a ninth inning threat by UNLV, neither team was able to score until the 12th inning.

UNLV got their first extra-base hit with two outs in the top of the 12th before right-fielder Chas Harris botched a routine fly ball, allowing Erik VanMeetren to score.

Harris responded in the bottom half of the inning after a bunt with two runners on forced an errant throw from T.J. White, while Harris scurried down the first baseline to tie the ball game. This set up a walk with nobody out, in order to allow the Rebels a shot at forcing a play at home.

However, pinch hitter John Pustay had other plans, as a tough dribbler to the shortstop proved to be the difference.

“I did that a lot last year. Actually I felt pretty comfortable doing it,” Pustay said of his walk-off role. “It was great for me because I have been struggling the past couple of games.”

UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said that he was discouraged at the way his upper classmen played in the series loss to UNLV.

“It’s the weirdest stuff I have ever seen. I think we have a curse on the team, I really do,” Birmingham said. “This is the first series that (UNLV has) won here in seven years.”

The Lobos have dominated the Rebels in recent seasons, wining 12 of the 14 times that the two teams have faced off.

“We have a young club and we went into the season knowing that we have a young club,” Birmingham said. “The two freshmen are leading the club in hitting.”

UNM looks to feed off of the late-game winner as the team will face ASU in Tempe, A.Z. on Wednesday.