The old baseball adage that good pitching beats good hitting could not have been any more correct Sunday afternoon as the UNM baseball team, behind the pitching of Chris Cooper, beat Kansas State University 12-3 at the Albuquerque Sports Stadium.
UNM (4-8) played its best all-around game of the season, putting in a solid effort on offense, defense and on the mound to finish 1-2 in the Applebee's Baseball Fiesta Tournament this weekend.
The left-handed Cooper had the Kansas State batters off-balance all day and his teammates came up with some nice defensive plays to cool down the red-hot Kansas State offense.
The Wildcats scored 30 runs during its past two games, but could not figure out how to handle Cooper (1-2).
Cooper, who struggled in his last three outings, pitched a complete game, allowing three earned runs on eight hits and had four strikeouts in getting his first victory of the season.
"I tried to mix it up, keep them off balance and throw strikes," Cooper said. "I kept the ball off the middle of the plate, and the defense did a great job making a lot of plays. The offense did well. I mean we had every part of our game today; offense, defense, and pitching."
Cooper was not the only Lobo to have a breakout game. Shortstop Dusty Young helped ignite the UNM offense, going three-for-four with three runs scored.
Young had been batting .225 in 11 games before yesterday.
Young said he changed his swing some and had a meeting with assistant coach Mark Martinez to try and improve his offense.
"I changed my batting stance a little bit, and I went up there with a little bit more confidence," Young said. "I felt a lot more comfortable at the plate, and I just tried to get the ball rolling a little bit."
Young helped ignite a six-run fifth inning with a lead-off double and the score tied at two. Second baseman Troy Cairns tried to bunt him to third base, but ended up on second when Kansas State third baseman Josh Cavender threw the ball into right field, scoring Young. Designated hitter Aaron Stanley followed with an infield single.
After a wild pitch advanced the runners to first and second, first baseman Chris Alexander hit a blooping single into left field which scored two runs. Right fielder Donny Sevieri continued the scoring binge with a double down the left field line, scoring Alexander. Pinch hitter Joe Salas got the Lobos' sixth straight run on a screamer up the middle to score Sevieri. UNM scored one more run when third baseman Mike Svetlic hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Salas.
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Young was not the only hitting star for UNM, because Stanley went two-for-four, Alexander hit two-for-three with three RBI's, and Salas went a perfect two-for-two.
The UNM defense showed no resemblance to the unit that kicked the baseball around and had nine errors in its two previous games. The defense came through against Kansas State as Young had several nifty plays at shortstop to end scoring threats and Salas made a fantastic running catch to end another threat in the sixth.
"This was definitely our best game of the year so far," Cooper said. "The defense made a lot of great plays, and we had a lot of extra base hits and bunt singles. It is the first time we have done it all season, and, hopefully, it will be a start to some good baseball."
Young helped get the Lobos on the scoreboard in the third after trailing 2-0. He hit an infield single to advance catcher Sean Murray to second. Murray got on base with a single to lead off the inning. Cairns laid a bunt down the third base line and Cavender helped the Lobos again by throwing the ball away. The error scored Murray, and Young went to third on the play. He later scored on a fielder's choice.
"I was just looking to hit some pitcher mistakes," Young said. "I had a couple fastballs up, and I was just trying to take advantage."
The Lobos added a run in the seventh and three more in the eighth to round out the scoring.
In other games this weekend, UNM lost to the seventh-ranked University of Nebraska 15-7 Friday afternoon. The UNM defense faltered, committing five errors and giving up four unearned runs.
The UNM defense was porous again Saturday in a 7-3 loss against the University of Missouri.
The Lobos allowed another four unearned runs on four errors, which helped narrow the Lobos' chances of winning.
UNM plays New Mexico State University Tuesday at 3 p.m.