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Thursday, November 27, 2014

SDSU stands in the way of a shot at regionals

If San Diego State head baseball coach Tony Gwynn is considered one of the greatest batters in the history of MLB, that doesn’t mean his knack for clubbing balls has suddenly transferred to his players.

The Aztecs are not hitting the ball like their head coach once did back in his hey-day with the San Diego Padres. SDSU is batting an anemic .297 average, last in the Mountain West Conference.

Still, UNM head baseball coach Ray Birmingham will need his pitching staff for the Lobos’ upcoming series with the Aztecs. After a two-week hiatus from Mountain West Conference action, UNM is back in the grind of conference play with a three-game series against SDSU, starting today.

So what has Birmingham done to motivate his starting pitching staff?

“I am a big believer in the C vitamin,” Birmingham said. “And the C vitamin is called confidence.”
Fifth-year senior Max Willett said the Lobos will have to be on their toes against the Aztecs.

“You know, they are a very, very good team,” he said. “We have to be ready to go at them again. These are three huge games coming up, especially with conference (play) winding down. We need a win in every game that we can get. They are going to be good and coming out for us, because we took three from them (earlier in the season). We have to be ready to go right back at them.”

Lately, though, the Lobos’ offense has put up football-like scores against their opponents. UNM has scored 114 runs in the last eight games, which includes a 29-3 win over Coppin State on April 18.

But bigger than the win over Coppin State, or the offense, Birmingham said this three-game against SDSU has large implications, especially if UNM has a shot to play in the College Baseball World Series Regionals.

“They’re huge for us, but everything here on out is huge for us,” Birmingham said. “We needed a couple of more games, because the RPI is important for us and league is important for us. TCU is important for us. San Diego is important for us. Utah is important for us, and every team all the way down the line.”

Above all that, the MWC tournament is most important to the Lobos. Last year, the Lobos drew SDSU and fell 2-1, before losing to BYU 5-1.
This time around, Birmingham wants it to be different.

“We have gone to the mountain top, and we have been one rock away,” Birmingham said. “You want to see a guy who is ready to just jump off the top of it — when I get there — it’s me.”