SURPRISE, A.Z. — The University of New Mexico baseball team played its first games of the season, taking part in the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic at Surprise Stadium in Arizona and splitting its games with two wins and two losses.
UNM opened the season against 25th-ranked Oregon State, falling 11-4. This marks the third year in a row the Lobos have opened their season against the Beavers, with this installment getting away from the Lobos early as Oregon State ended the first inning with a 9-0 lead.
Five of the runs came off junior pitcher Cody Dye, who was making his first start since 2018 after a season-ending Tommy John surgery. Dye was unable to record an out before being pulled for sophomore Isiah Campa.
The Beavers were able to score four more runs off Campa and controlled the rest of the game. Oregon State starter Christian Chamberlain went six innings, surrendering just one run on five strikeouts.
"Cody gave us all he had today, but it was too early to put him in that spot coming off Tommy John," said head coach Ray Birmingham. "We had Nathaniel Garley penciled in for the start, but when he got sick we had to decide what to do on opening day and chose Cody. The result today was unfortunate for him, and that is my fault."
The next day, the Lobos played a doubleheader against Brigham Young University. The first game gave the Lobos their first win of the season, defeating the Cougars 2-0 behind a strong start from junior transfer Aaron Makil. He went six innings with zero runs allowed and six strikeouts. UNM's bullpen held strong after Makil was pulled, allowing zero hits over the last four innings.
The Lobo offense went to work in the fourth inning, as junior Connor Mang scored on a wild throw and another run scored on an Ediberto Reyes double.
"After that first inning against Oregon State, we challenged our guys to go out and win every inning after that," Birmingham said. "They've gone out and won the last 17 innings — I'm proud of them for that."
The second game of the doubleheader proved to be tougher for the Lobos, but they were able to complete the sweep against BYU, notching a 5-4 victory.
Sophomore starter Tristin Lively had a solid outing for UNM as he gave up three runs (all in the second inning) on five hits with six strikeouts, getting the Lobos out of an early hole.
The Lobos tied the game up in the third inning and were able to take a 5-3 lead into the fourth.
BYU made it interesting late with a Hayden Leatham solo home run in the top of the 9th inning to cut the Cougar’s deficit to one. Ultimately, the homer would not deter newcomer Miguel Reyes Jr., who struck out the next batter to give the Lobos the victory in his first save in a UNM uniform.
On Feb. 17, the Lobos faced off against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a game that featured heroics and heartbreak.
Through the first eight innings, the Lobos found themselves at a 2-0 disadvantage. At the top of the ninth, the Lobos had loaded the bases with two outs and were down to their final strike. Senior second baseman Justin Watari came through in the clutch with a bases-clearing triple that gave UNM a 3-2 lead.
Watari went on to score on a wild pitch, giving UNM a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the inning.
Reyes Jr. was once again called upon to get the final three outs but gave up consecutive walks before getting pulled for junior Payton Strambler.
After striking out his first batter, Strambler walked the next hitter on a full count, loading the bases. Gonzaga cut the lead to 4-3 on a sacrifice fly to left field, which also advanced the other baserunners to third and second and put the go-ahead run in scoring position.
Unfortunately for the Lobos, the highs of the comeback turned into the bitter taste of defeat as an off-target throw pulled junior infielder Kyle Landers off the bag and allowed two Gonzaga baserunners to score, giving them the walk-off victory.
The Lobos (2-2) will now head back home to prepare for their first games at Santa Ana Star Field as they play host to Northern Colorado this coming weekend. The first game of the three-game series is scheduled for Feb. 21 at 3 p.m.
Spencer Butler is a sports reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SpencerButler48