A seventh inning lead for the University of New Mexico wasn't enough to stop Cal State Fullerton from applying pressure en route to a victory in the game and series.
After the Lobos (11-7, 6-0 MW) acquired a 4-2 lead, the Titans rallied its way back to a win on Saturday evening at Goodwin Field, 5-4, marking the second straight game in as many days that UNM lost to the opponent by a single run.
Head coach Ray Birmingham said the players weren’t necessarily to blame for the loss, adding that some difficult fielding conditions played a role as well.
“Another tough game for us,” Birmingham said in a release. “Wet grass in the outfield caused a ball to slip by one of our outfielders and a wet ball slipped out of the hand of another outfielder and caused us to miss the cut off man on the go-ahead run. That was the difference in the game. (After Sunday’s series finale), we’ll meet them again down the road this season – you watch.”
UNM’s first lead came in the third inning when Luis Gonzalez reached base on a single and was eventually brought in on an RBI double by Carl Stajduhar. The Lobos scored again on a solidly hit RBI single to the left side by Jared Mang to give UNM a 2-1 lead.
Redshirt sophomore Hayden Schilling chips away at a ball during the Lobos game against San Jose State on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at Santa Ana Star Field. The Lobos…
Sophomore Jared Mang slides into second base as a SJSU player attempts to out him Saturday, March 11, 2017 at Santa Ana Star Field.
The fourth inning was also fruitful for the Lobos as the team had another two run output. Andre Vigil – who led off the inning – doubled on his first at-bat in the frame, and was brought home on an RBI single from Andre Gregory.
Daniel Herrera moved Gregory to third on the ensuing at-bat, singling to put runners on the corners. Gonzalez grounded into a double play, but Gregory still scored on the play to put UNM up 4-1.
But CSU Fullerton didn’t shy away from the challenge, scoring a run in the bottom of the frame to shorten the Lobos’ lead to two runs.
UNM’s starting pitcher Johnathon Tripp – after the second Titans’ score in the fourth inning – held CSU Fullerton scoreless in the two ensuing innings before his night ended.
The Lobos turned to the bullpen in the seventh inning, swapping Tripp for reliever Austin Isenhart. The Titans got rolling in the inning though, scoring another run to put UNM’s lead at only one run, 4-3.
New Mexico then went to reliever Cody Dye to close out the seventh and he stayed on the bump for the eighth inning to record the first out. The Lobos put the ball in Brandon Langan’s hands, but was pulled after hitting the first batter he faced.
Christian Tripp, Johnathon’s brother, got the nod at that point, but he allowed an RBI double later in the inning which tied the game at 4-4. He also gave up the go-ahead run on a single, giving Cal State Fullerton a 5-4 advantage heading into the final inning.
The Lobos knew they needed to score to extend the game and threatened by starting a rally when down to the final out. Danny Collier reached base on a walk, and then was moved to third base on a single by Stajduhar.
But that was as close as the Lobos got as first baseman Jack Zoellner grounded out to end the game. The 5-4 loss was the fourth straight for the Lobos, and second in a row to CS Fullerton.However, that's the farthest the Lobos would go, as they would not score again in the inning.
Starting pitcher Johnathon Tripp pitched a good game despite the loss, allowing six hits and two runs over six innings pitched. He also struck out three batters. It was Tripp’s brother, Christian, who picked up the loss for the Lobos, giving up two hits and one run in his 0.2 innings on the mound.
Four Lobos had a multi-hit game with Vigil leading the way, going 2-for-4 at the plate. Gonzalez, Stajduhar and Gregory were the other hitters to do so.
Up next for the Lobos is the final game in the weekend series with CSU Fullerton on Sunday, Mar. 19 at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN Radio 101.7, The TEAM.
Matthew Narvaiz is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers women's basketball and baseball. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz