Getting to the top is hard, staying there is even harder.
That’s what the New Mexico baseball team found out last weekend after getting swept by Mountain West rival UNLV. With the sweep, the Rebels are now tied atop the conference standings with the Lobos.
It was the first time UNM had been swept in the MW since losing three-straight against TCU in 2011.
Head coach Ray Birmingham said fatigue will be a factor heading down the stretch with just 10 games remaining in the regular-season, nine of which are conference games.
“The majority of this team, other than a handful of guys, have never played a college baseball schedule,” he said. “This time of year these guys are even more stressed out. It’s the first time that they’ve had to play this many games and finals.”
The Rebels outscored the Lobos 39-10 over the three games and UNM made mistakes across the field.
Third baseman Andre Vigil said the team is still confident it’ll be able to hold on to first place.
“There’s a little bit of pressure (to win), losing the way we did hurt us and our focus, but with the help of the coaching staff and older players they get your mind right and focused back on the game,” he said. “We just try hard to put those games back behind us.”
The next team to try to knock off the Lobos from their perch is San Diego State, a team that currently sits in fourth place in the conference standings, just two games behind UNM. It will be the first and only series the Lobos (31-14-1, 14-7 MW) and Aztecs (32-14, 12-9 MW) have this year.
The Aztecs have struggled on the road all season, compiling a 9-10 record and have won only just one game outside of the state of California all season. That win came at UNLV earlier in the year.
“When we entered the season, I really thought the two teams to beat were UNLV and San Diego State,” Birmingham said. “They got seniors, fifth-year seniors and fourth-year juniors. They both have guys who have been to school five years, a lot of them. San Diego State and UNLV there’s no difference.”
SDSU has several talented bats in its lineup with five starters hitting at least .290 or better. Sophomore Ty France leads the team with a .362 batting average and 18 doubles.
As a team, the Aztecs are hitting .286 and score an average of 5.7 runs per game.
The Aztecs have three quality starting pitchers in Bubba Derby (2.14 ERA, 70 strikeouts), Michael RoBards (4.60 ERA, 43 Ks) and Mark Seylar (3.34, 63 Ks).
In the bullpen, SDSU has close Michael Cederoth, who owns a 2.16 ERA and has 16 saves on the year. Cederoth does have control issues, walking 23 batters thus far, which is tied for the team lead.
The season will most likely come down to the wire, Birmingham said.
“I thought they might hit a wall somewhere, I knew they would and they did last weekend,” he said. “I hope we overcome that, that’s what I worry about the most. Can they find the energy, the momentum to come in and win this league?”