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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Baseball: UNM third midway through MWC season

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By Di Linh Hoang / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Freshman infielder Jered Meek forces out midfielder Andrew Bishop on second during the match against Jacksonville State Sunday afternoon at Lobo Field.

sports@dailylobo.com
@ThomasRomeroS

This week is the closest the Mountain West baseball season will get to a halfway point.

Every team has played 15 of their 30 conference games except New Mexico, which has only played 12 of its 30 MW contests to date.

UNLV sits atop the conference standings with a one-game lead over both San Diego State and UNM. The Lobos and the Aztecs both have the same MW winning percentage at .667.

“It’s just like I thought it would go,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. “It’s a freshmen year for us, it’s a young year for us. It’s an older year for SDSU and UNLV. I would’ve picked those teams as the teams to beat.”

All of the other five teams in the MW have seven conference losses or more.

Now for a breakdown of every team starting with the conference leading Rebels.

UNLV 23-10, 11-4 Mountain West

The Rebels have done well during the conference slate by taking two out of three games against the other top teams in the Mountain West in SDSU and UNM.

UNLV has the third-best MW batting average at .286, but more importantly are tops in ERA at 2.49, which is a little more than a half run better than second place Fresno State (3.00 ERA).

It’s clear that the Rebels rely on their pitching staff with three pitchers in the top 5 in terms of ERA: Bryan Bonnell ranks first with a 1.61 ERA, Erick Fedde is second (1.74) and Kenny Oakley is fifth at 2.06.

This weekend UNLV hosts San Jose State for a three-game series.

SDSU 25-8, 10-5 MW

The Aztecs boast the second best offense in the MW behind the Lobos.

SDSU ranks second in batting average (.302), first in slugging percentage (.421) and on-base percentage (.384) and are second in runs scored (208).

The schedule makers did both the Aztecs and the Lobos a favor as the teams will only meet up for one three-game this season starting on May 2.

SDSU’s next three games are on the road against Nevada.

UNM 24-11-1, 8-4

Pitching was a strength earlier in the season for the Lobos, but now their team ERA has ballooned to 4.03 for fifth in the conference.

UNM’s offense has offset the pitching staffs troubles, posting a league-high .309 average, a third place slugging percentage at .391 and have scored 241 runs for tops in the conference.

Outfielder Chase Harris has the second best batting average in the MW at .371.

The Lobos host Fresno State, who they swept earlier this season, this weekend at Lobo Field.

Nevada 16-14, 8-7

The Wolf Pack has rebounded after an early season six-game losing streak, three of which were losses to Fresno State, to hold fourth place in the conference.

Nevada’s offense has struggled this season with a .260 batting average, but the pitching staff has posted the fourth best ERA in the conference at 3.64.

At home the Wolf Pack are 8-2, but have a 7-11 record away from Reno, Nev.

Fresno State 18-15, 7-8 MW

Birmingham called the Bulldogs a team that is as talented as any other in the conference but their talent has not coalesced thus far.

The main problem for Fresno State is the lack of offensive production as the team has outscored opponents by just one run per game.

The Bulldogs pitching staff has been stellar with just a 3.00 ERA.

San Jose State 10-23, 5-15 MW

Quality pitching has been hard to find for the Spartans.

SJSU has a team ERA of 5.68 and opposing hitters are batting .336 against them. Pitcher Kalei Contrades ranks first on the team with a 3.53 ERA.

The Spartans have lost five of their last eight games.

Air Force 8-24, 2-13 MW

The cellar-dweller Falcons are last in both offense and pitching.

AFA has a league-high 5.99 ERA and a conference low .233 batting average.

The Falcons longest winning streak this season is two games, while their lengthiest losing streak was 14 games.