The University of New Mexico baseball team responded with a win after dropping its season opener, but couldn't quite get by Gonzaga University Sunday at the Surprise Tournament in Arizona.
Gonzaga (1-2) lost its first two games of the year by one run — losing the season opener in extra innings — but finally ended up on the right side of the ledger with a 4-3 win over New Mexico.
The loss dropped the University of New Mexico baseball team to 1-2 on the young season, with a rematch against No. 2 Oregon State still to come.
Both offenses posted a couple of early runs in the first inning, but things started to tighten up after New Mexico made a pitching change after the second inning.
New Mexico right-hander Drew Gillespie got off to a rocky start, putting the second batter of the game on first base after his pitch hit Austin Pinorini. The mistake proved costly as senior Jake Vieth sent one over the center field wall with two outs to give the Zags a 2-0 advantage.
Freshman righty Alek Jacob also seemed to have some jitters in the bottom of the first inning, where the Lobos were able to tie things up.
UNM senior Danny Collier drew a lead-off walk and advance to third after a Hayden Schilling single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Collier later scored after Jacob's pitch got away and the Lobos evened things up when Jeff Diemling singled home Schilling.
With runners on first and second and still no outs, the Lobos appeared to be in good shape to tack on more. But Jacob got off of the jam, inducing a double-play ball and striking out Connor Mang to end the threat.
Gillespie continued to have trouble in the top half of the second inning, giving up a pair of hits to the first two batters to start the frame. He recorded a strikeout, but then walked Carson Breshears to load the bases.
Fortunately for the Lobos, Gillespie was able to limit the damage to one run, which came on a sacrifice fly — but his night ended early as head coach Ray Birmingham made the move to senior right-hand pitcher James Harrington in the top of the third with UNM trailing 3-2.
The bats went cold for New Mexico after the opening inning as UNM struck out four times and managed just one hit over the next four innings.
Both teams had some promising scoring chances in the sixth inning, but stranded two runners to end its respective halves as the Bulldogs maintained its 3-2 lead.
Jacob was pulled in the bottom of the sixth inning in favor of left-hander Calvin LeBrun, who pitched himself into some trouble before recording back-to-back strikeouts to end the bottom of the sixth.
Harrington gave the Lobos a clean sheet and exited the game in the top of the seventh after issuing a walk. Reliever Malachi Emond came to the mound and recorded two quick out to finish off the top of the frame.
The Lobos finally broke through in the bottom half of the frame to give Emond some run support. Schilling sent a two-out base hit into center field with two runners on, scoring Brayden Merritt from second base.
But New Mexico missed a rare opportunity to add more to the scoreboard, leaving two on base to end things for the second inning a row.
Gonzaga was able to manufacture what proved to be the game-winning run in the top of the eighth. Senior Gunnar Schubert got on base with a hit to right field and moved into scoring range on a passed ball. Emond recorded the second out of the inning with a strikeout, but Ernie Yake ripped one down the line in left field to score the go-ahead run in Schubert, giving the Zags a 4-3 lead.
The Lobos had a good look at tying things up in their half of the inning — advancing a runner to third with just one out — but grounded into an inning-inning double play.
That proved to be New Mexico's best chance as Bulldog closer Casey Legumina came on in relief and mowed down all three batters he faced, striking out the side to end the game and preserve the 4-3 win.
“We got another great night of bullpen work,” Birmingham said in a release. “Unfortunately we need more of our older guys to clutch up to win close games like this.”
The Zags will end their Surprise Tournament with a repeat matchup against Cal Poly on Feb. 19, while the Lobos look to salvage a split against Oregon State that same day. New Mexico's game is slated to start at 2 p.m. and can be heard on ESPN radio 101.7, the TEAM.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.