The University of New Mexico baseball team fell back into a last-place tie in the Mountain West standings, joining Nevada after getting shut out 3-0 by the Wolf Pack on Saturday afternoon.
Runs were hard to come by as the teams combined to tally just 10 hits for the game and New Mexico (16-18, 7-10 MW) continued to strikeout plenty of Nevada batters, but a first-inning home run by the Wolf Pack was all the offense they needed as they earned a split through the first two games of a three-game set.
Nevada centerfielder Jaylon McLaughlin sent a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall off Lobo starting pitcher Justin Slaten in the top of the first and saw its freshman hurler, Owen Sharts, dance around some walks to pitch 5.1 scoreless innings and put himself in line for the win.
Lobo second baseman Tyler Kelly drew a one-out walk and swiped second base with two out in the bottom of the first, but was unable to advance any further.
Brian Coffey entered the game in the third inning, inheriting a one-out, one-on situation. McLaughlin wasted no time stealing second off Coffey, but may have gotten too greedy as he was caught stealing when trying to swipe third a few moments later. Coffey got out of the inning by striking out Dillan Shrum.
The Lobos threatened again in the bottom of the third, but failed to make use of a lead-off single off the bat of Reese O'Farrell. Kelly earned his second base-on-balls of the game with two outs to get another runner aboard but Nevada was able to avoid any trouble after catching a ball in foul territory to keep the score 1-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, it was Jeff Deimling who showed patience at the plate and earned a walk to put runners on first and third with just one out. But Nevada got the Lobos to hit into an inning-ended double play to get out of the potential jam.
Nevada got some more separation in the top half of the seventh, getting the first two men on base and playing small ball to get them home. New Mexico helped the cause with a hit batsman and a wild pitch.
Blake Walden took the mound after Coffey hit Wyatt Tilley, but was unable to pitch around the trouble. Wolf Pack second baseman Keaton Smith was able to execute a bunt to advance the runners to second and third base, respectively. Nevada scored its second run of the game when a wild pitch got away and both runners took a base.
The Wolf Pack tacked on one more when Joshua Zamora singled to left, but Walden was able to limit the damage when the Lobos turned two on a routine grounder to end the frame.
The damage was too much to overcome though, as the Lobos' limited chances were quickly derailed in the final innings. UNM went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, hit into a double play to end the eighth and couldn't do anything with a lead-off single and stolen base in the bottom of the ninth.
Nevada improved to .500 with the 3-0 victory and sit at 17-17 overall. Slaten was dealt the loss and fell to 3-4 on the season. Coffey recorded five strikeouts in his 3.2 innings of work.
The rubber game takes place on Sunday at noon as the teams compete to climb out of last place and try to make a stretch run in an effort to get into the top four.
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