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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Baseball: Bridges’ starting return clinches series win

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

New Mexico pitcher Drew Bridges looks toward the batter during Sunday’s game against San Diego State. Bridges made his first start since March 14, having missed almost eight weeks of action due to shoulder fatigue.

sports@dailylobo.com
@ThomasRomeroS

It didn’t look like Drew Bridges was making his first start in almost two months.

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New Mexico catcher and first baseman Alex Real takes a fast pitch to the back during the game against San Diego State on Sunday. The
Lobos defeated the Aztecs 13-5.

By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

In fact, Bridges was the team’s most effective pitcher on Sunday.

Thanks to Bridges’ 4.1 shutout innings of work, UNM routed San Diego State 13-5 to stay tied atop the Mountain West standings with UNLV.

Bridges (3-1) made his first start since March 14, having missed almost eight weeks of action due to shoulder fatigue. He allowed just three hits and walked two batters.

“(Bridges) was the key to the game,” head coach Ray Birmingham said. “All those goose eggs in a row (were) a big deal.”

The right-handed pitcher earned the win despite leaving the mound early on a strict pitch count. He threw 70 pitches total, 45 of which went for strikes.

“It starts with Drew Bridges. We really needed him and he came through for us,” catcher Alex Real said. “He kept the ball down. His ball had a lot of run on it. He just competed up there.”

UNM started off the scoring with an RBI double by shortstop Jared Holley for a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Holley came up limp when rounding second and was pulled after the inning. Center fielder Aaron Siple gave UNM a 2-0 lead thanks to an RBI double later in the frame.

In the fourth inning, the Lobos blew the game open with five runs for a 7-0 lead. Siple hit a two-run double and right fielder Chase Harris hit a two-run triple.

SDSU (32-16, 13-11 Mountain West) finally got on the board thanks to a solo home run by catcher Brad Haynal in the sixth inning.

The Lobos responded with four runs in the bottom of the frame and took a commanding 11-1 edge. Designated hitter John Pustay hit a two-run single in the inning.

“Offensively, we all battled today and Coach Birmingham has been on us and we finally came through,” Real said. “Just don’t take pitches off. That’s what we’ve been doing. Just having an approach when we go up there. It’s just a mindset — ‘be aggressive and know that you’re going to get a hit.’”

UNM’s bullpen, a strength of the team this season, uncharacteristically almost let SDSU back into the game.

In both the seventh and eighth innings, the Lobos allowed the Aztecs to load the bases. However, SDSU wasn’t able to take advantage and scored just four runs between both frames.

The Lobos (33-15-1, 16-8 MW) undid some of the damage with two runs in the eighth.

Relievers Taylor Duree, Kevin Baumgartner, A.J. Carman and Victor Sanchez combined to throw 4.2 innings, giving up five runs on eight hits and four walks.

“They broke all the rules, especially with the lead that we had. They were pitching behind the count,” Birmingham said. “The zone got a little tight, but I can’t blame that on the umpire. We’re ahead and we should go right down the middle of the plate and play catch. We didn’t do that.”

Aztec starter Mark Seyler (7-4) took the loss after allowing six earned runs on seven hits in just 3.2 innings of work.