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Aztecs draw blood in win

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Lobos lose series finale, catcher as SDSU inches closer in league race

Sometimes you simply realize it’s not going to be your day.

That moment came early Saturday for the University of New Mexico baseball team – even though its 13-6 loss to San Diego State required 3 1/2 hours to complete.

The Lobos began the game at Lobo Field without leading hitter D.J. Peterson (hamstring injury) and shortstop Jared Holley (family funeral), and a short bench quickly got shorter. Catcher Mitch Garver was hit in the face with a first-inning SDSU relay throw and spent the final eight innings on the bench.

“It didn’t start off as a good day,” Lobo coach Ray Birmingham said, “and it didn’t end well.”

Any doubt about the outcome was erased in the sixth inning, when the Aztecs plated eight runs to break open a 2-2 game. Lobo starter Sam Wolff was relieved after Tyler France’s leadoff single, but UNM’s bullpen could not keep the game close.

Four hits, four walks and a hit batsman later, San Diego State (13-14, 5-4 Mountain West) led 10-2. France’s second hit of the inning, a two-run single, and Matt Muñoz’s two-run double were the big blows.

“You’ve got to pitch,” Birmingham said, “especially when your lineup’s short. You’ve got to pitch, and we didn’t.”

Pitching was not the only culprit for UNM (14-14, 6-3), which had its MWC lead trimmed to one game over San Diego State. Both teams racked up 16 hits Saturday, but the Aztecs were far more productive.

The Lobos stranded 14 base runners and twice left the bases loaded.

“I don’t know what it is,” catcher Erik Suarez said. “We work on it in practice, getting the ball in play with runners on base. I guess we’ve got to work on it some more.”

Suarez went 2-for-3 after entering the game in the second inning. He came in to replace Garver, who was injured on a fluke play.

Garver singled to left-center in the bottom of the first and was hustling for second base when SDSU shortstop Evan Potter received a throw from the outfield. Potter turned and fired wildly toward second, but the ball hit a sliding Garver, deflecting off the brim of his helmet before hitting him in the nose.

Garver rolled over and was motionless for a few moments before eventually walking off the field with a towel held to his bloody nose. He remained in the dugout throughout the game but was going to be examined afterward.

“He wanted to stay in the game,” Birmingham said of Garver, who stretched his hitting streak to 25 games before the injury. “I said no. You can’t take chances with something like that.”

Garver joins Peterson on the day-to-day availability list at a difficult time for the Lobos. UNM visits New Mexico State on Monday and hosts Texas Tech on Tuesday before playing a road series at Air Force next weekend.

— This article appeared on page D2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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