The Lobos found themselves on the wrong side of a couple of overturned calls Friday night as the University of New Mexico baseball team fell 4-2 to the San Diego State Aztecs at Santa Ana Star Field.
New Mexico (11-10, 3-4 MW) appeared to be cruising with Justin Slaten dealing on the mound. The right-hander got the start and sat down the first nine Aztec batters — striking out four along the way.
But the Lobos were not able to capitalize offensively and stranded three base runners through three innings, keeping the game a scoreless tie.
San Diego State broke through in the top half of the fourth after it was the beneficiary of an overturned call with huge implications. Angelo Armenta launched a deep shot down the first base line. If it was fair, it was clearly a home run, but the first base umpire Chris Hickman waved his arms indicated he saw the play as a foul ball.
After a little deliberation and a visit from Aztec coach Mark Martinez, home plate umpire Jason Rogers motioned that he'd overturned the call and awarded Armenta a 2-run home run. Head coach Ray Birmingham came out of the dugout, presumably to plead his case, but the call stood and SDSU took an early 2-0 lead.
The Aztecs tacked on another run in the inning and eventually took a 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth. San Diego State's stroke of fortune and ensuing offensive production spoiled an otherwise solid outing by Slaten and put the junior in line for the loss despite striking out eight batters and going seven strong.
But the Lobos battled back despite Rogers overturning another call — a balk on one of the SDSU pitchers that could have aided in the UNM comeback.
New Mexico still had struggles late trying to get runners home, stranding another pair of players in the bottom of the eighth. Brayden Merritt manufactured a lead-off single and the Lobos put runners on the corners after a fly out when Hayden Schilling found a hole and singled to right.
The Aztecs walked the bases loaded with UNM still working with one out in the frame, but induced Connor Mang into hitting a double-play ball — which SDSU turned to get out of the inning unharmed.
The Lobos experienced similar woes in the final inning. Right fielder Tanner Baker doubled to left field and advanced to third base on a wild pitch to get things going with nobody out. Jeff Deimling reached first base after the third baseman was unable to cleanly field the ball and Ediberto Reyes brought home Baker and a pinch runner with another double to half the lead and make it a 4-2 game — bringing the potential game-tying run to the plate.
Adam Adkins got the Lobos even closer to an improbable comeback when he drew a walk and Reyes took third base on a wild pitch. Merritt came to the plate and elected to bunt, but was unable to get the ball down. San Diego State recorded the out and doubled up Adkins when he was unable to get back to first in time — which definitely seemed to take the wind out of the sails.
Instead of advancing the runners and possibly having the tying run in scoring position, Reyes stood alone on third — which is where he remained. The next batter flew out harmlessly to centerfield and the Aztecs escaped with the 4-2 victory to snag game one of the 3-game set.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.