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Cairns finds new home perfect in 11-6 triumph

Daily Lobo

Playing at the Albuquerque Sports Stadium for the first time in a decade seemed to help the UNM baseball team in its 11-6 win over Southern Utah, ending a season-opening six-game losing streak.

Playing at the spacious stadium helped awaken the Lobos' bats as the team recorded its first win of the season in its home opener to improve to 1-6.

A six-run sixth inning catapulted the Lobos to the win and three UNM pitchers combined to hold down Southern Utah (1-8).

"We took that gorilla off our back," head coach Rich Alday said. "We finally put some hits together with the combination of everybody contributing. It was nice to get that first victory."

Sophomore Troy Cairns went five-for-five as the leadoff man and helped the team record a season-high 16 hits.

"I am a dead fastball hitter and I sit on that until I get two strikes," the second baseman said. "That is all I saw today. They pitched right into my game and that's fine by me. It was my day, I guess."

Hanging on to a slim 5-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Lobos put together a string of hits, highlighted by a towering two-run home run by sophomore first baseman Chris Alexander to extend the lead to 11-3.

An RBI double by junior Matt Alexander, who finished two-for-four on the day, and freshman Joe Salas' RBI triple contributed to the big inning as the Lobos knocked Southern Utah's starting pitcher Rick White out of the game. White did not get any help from his teammates because the defense made three errors, giving the Lobos six unearned runs.

The home opener was two weeks late because UNM was supposed to start the season Jan. 27, but inclement weather canceled both games. The Lobos are playing in the Sports Stadium since Triple-A team the Albuquerque Dukes left to play in Portland, Ore.

"It was a relief to play here finally," Cairns said. "I think this field suits us well. It was good to play in a familiar territory."

Cairns started the scoring for UNM by leading off the bottom of the first with a single. He moved to second on an error, then to third on a force out. He then scored on a balk by the pitcher.

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Starting UNM pitcher Jason Bengert (1-0) got the win, giving up six hits and allowing two earned runs - on a two-run home run by James Anderson - in six innings.

The Lobos recovered in the fourth and fifth innings, however, with four runs. A pair of doubles and an RBI single capped the scoring in the three-run fourth.

A three-run homer by Southern Utah first baseman Rick Wright in the seventh gave the Thunderbirds hope for a comeback, but UNM relievers Jeremy DeYapp and freshman James Vermilya shut the door in the final two innings.

Alday said the team is looking forward to playing in a lot more games at the Sports Stadium.

"The stadium is outstanding," he said. "The atmosphere is so much nicer. I really enjoy it and I know the players really enjoy it."

UNM plays Southern Utah again today at the Sports Stadium at 3 p.m.


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