Fighting to the bitter end of a ten-inning struggle
The Utah and UNM baseball teams exchanged rallies on Sunday like people exchange phone numbers with each other.
But in a series finale that needed extra innings on Sunday, the Utes got the last call over the Lobos, with a 9-8 win at Isotopes Stadium, taking two of three games from the Lobos over the weekend.
“It was very hard to stomach,” said UNM head baseball coach Ray Birmingham.
It was probably the pitching that made Birmingham want to vomit in the dugout over the weekend.
In the three-game series, the Lobos’ pitching staff allowed 51 hits to the Utes.
And the 51st hit for Utah was the game winner.
In the top of the 10th inning, Utah’s All-American catcher C.J. Cron laid down a suicide bunt with the bases loaded down the infield left foul line.
The death-defying squeeze scored Michael Beltran from third.
Preceding the game-winning score, Utah was able to turn in a three-run inning in the top of the ninth that tied the game, 8-8.
“We have something bigger to fix than that ballgame,” Birmingham said. “It’s obvious and it jumps out at you. I would say the big indicator (is pitching).”
Before UNM’s bullpen imploded in the final inning, the Lobos had a scoring surge of their own.
UNM scored four runs without placing the ball into play in the bottom of the eighth.
During this span, Utah went through three different pitchers and accumulated five straight walks.
With two outs and a full count, UNM freshman John Michael Twichell, who was pinch hitting for Kenny Held, took the fifth walk from Brock Duke.
It gave the Lobos a one-run lead at 6-5.
“I just really wanted to get a hit and get on base,” Twichell said. “I was trying to move the runner over and (get the rest of the guys to score). It has been a while since I have been in a situation like that.”
After the eighth-inning walking exhibition, Daniel Gonzalez hit a line drive down the left-field line, scoring two runs which UNM thought gave them insurance going into the final inning.
Birmingham said it plain and simple: UNM should have beaten Utah on Sunday.
“The one thing I am proud of,” Birmingham said. “There’s fight in our kids. No matter what, they keep battling and put themselves back in a situation to win. We were one pitch away from winning that ballgame and one base hit away from winning that ballgame. The fight in this young team is really important to me, because there is still a long season ahead of us, and I can’t let this get to us.”
Baseball at Arizona
Tuesday at 6 p.m. and Wednesday at 1 p.m.