The New Mexico baseball team failed to finish a sweep of San Diego State on Saturday afternoon, losing 13-6 at Lobo Field.
UNM (13-13, 6-3) still took two of three in the series and sits in first place in the Mountain West Conference, but a bitter defeat took away some of the momentum built over the weekend.
“You’ve got to pitch,” coach Ray Birmingham said. “We played good (defense). You’ve just got to pitch. We had 16 hits, they had 16 hits. They had clutch hits and we didn’t.”
The game effectively turned with the Aztecs’ eight-run sixth inning, but in some ways it might have turned back in the first inning. With Sam Haggerty on first and one out, Mitchell Garver singled to left field to extend his hitting streak to 26 games.
Haggerty bolted around second and headed for third and in turn Garver ran to second as the throw from left field was cut off by shortstop Evan Potter. Realizing what was happening, Potter turned and fired toward second base, but the ball went right by Tim Zier and instead deflected off the brim of Garver’s batting helmet and into his nose.
The senior catcher lay in a heap at second as Haggerty scored. Garver was ultimately able to walk off the field under his own power.
“He’s all right, he’s a stud, but his nose is probably broken,” Birmingham said. “He’s going to go get it looked at. He wanted back in but I told him ‘no.'”
Senior Erik Suarez came in to replace Garver and actually held his own, going 2-for-3 with an RBI.
“I guess I just have to stay ready, that’s my job on this team, that’s my role,” Suarez said. “It sucks to see Mitch go down like that. But I’ve got to stay ready just in case things like that happen.”
The rest of the Lobos struggled, especially with runners in scoring position. UNM left the bases loaded without scoring in the fourth and fifth innings and finished with 14 runners left on base for the game.
“That’s the difference in the ballgame,” Birmingham said. “Our people came up and didn’t drive them in. Their people came up and drove them in.”
The Lobos’ early 2-0 lead disappeared by the fifth, but the wheels finally came off in the sixth. Starter Sam Wolff (1-3) gave up a leadoff single and was pulled in favor of Josh Walker, who has been UNM’s most effective reliever.
Walker did not have his usual pinpoint command on Saturday. After Matt Munoz’s sacrifice bunt moved Tyler France to second base, Danny Sheehan and Evan Potter hit back-to-back singles to put SDSU (13-14, 5-4) ahead 3-2. Walker then hit Greg Allen to load the bases.
Zier drove in a run on a groundout to make it 4-2. Walker intentionally walked Ryan Muno but followed that by walking Jake Romanski and Mitch Bluman to force in two more runs. France’s two-run single made it 8-2 and Munoz ripped a two-run double off Victor Sanchez to end the outburst.
“But we’re still in first place, we took two out of three,” Birmingham said. “My deal is, every series we’re taking, we’ve won the last three series in conference and we’re in first place, (but) I’m greedy, I think we should have won every game we played so far.”
Ryan Padilla and Alex Allbritton had three hits apiece to lead UNM at the plate. The Lobos were also without D.J. Peterson again, as he remains day-to-day with a strained hamstring.
UNM will have little time to regroup as it plays Monday at New Mexico State and Tuesday at home against Texas Tech at 2:05 p.m.