ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Pitchers on parade could easily have been the theme for Wednesday night’s baseball game at Lobo Field.
New Mexico and visiting New Mexico State combined to trot out 16 pitchers in the midweek game, but only a few had much success in the Lobos’ wind-blown 17-7 victory.
Chase Harris went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple and four RBIs for UNM (20-10-1), which earned a sweep of this season’s two-game series with NMSU (10-18). It was something of a feel-good win for the Lobos, who lost to Texas Tech in Midland, Texas, on Tuesday night and flew back to Albuquerque early Wednesday morning.
“No one on this team got more than two, three hours sleep,” UNM coach Ray Birmingham said. “The phone rang at 3 a.m., we flew back at 8 and these guys hustled to class. I’m proud of them for coming out and getting a win. It was a long day.”
For the Aggies, Wednesday’s game was the start of a long road trip. NMSU opens a series at Northern Colorado on Friday, visits Air Force on Tuesday, then travels to North Dakota for four games.
The daunting schedule prompted NMSU coach Rocky Ward to wear a path from his dugout to the pitchers’ mound Wednesday. The Aggies used 11 pitchers and threatened a national record for relief appearances in a single game.
Butler employed 12 relievers in a 1998 game against Indiana Southeast. NMSU tied for fourth on the NCAA list by using 10.
“We needed to get guys to the mound to prepare for this weekend,” said Ward, who briefly used each of his team’s usual weekend starters. “The problem is we’ve got to get guys to play defense behind them. That didn’t happen tonight.”
The Aggies’ defense was a primary culprit in turning the game around. NMSU led 6-3 midway through the fifth inning, thanks in part to a monstrous two-run homer by Derek Umphres that bounced off the side of the adjacent Davalos Basketball Center roughly 450 feet from home plate.
A howling wind certainly aided Umphres’ first-inning shot, but it likely would have been a home run under any conditions.
But the Aggies’ hopes for a series split disappeared quickly in the bottom of the fifth. The Lobos started the frame with four straight hits, including an RBI ground-rule double by Ryan Padilla, to climb within a run at 6-5.
Two straight walks forced in the tying run, then Aaron Siple’s ground ball to short was misplayed for a two-run error. UNM would not get another hit in the inning but scored nine runs to grab a 12-6 lead.
“They helped us out with some errors and mistakes,” Harris said, “but the good thing was we capitalized. We haven’t always done that this year.”
Harris smacked a two-run triple in the sixth as UNM scored four more runs to put the game out of reach. He had a chance to hit for the cycle in the eighth, but his long fly ball to left-center died in the wind.
“I got all of it,” Harris said, “but under it. It was really high but not far enough.”
Siple finished 4-for-5 for UNM, which outhit the Aggies 16-9. Kris Koerper was 3-for-5 to pace New Mexico State.
Kevin Baumgartner (2-1), one of five Lobo pitchers got the win in relief. Seldom-used freshmen Preston Ryan, Conner Rusch and Mike Gould all pitched effectively for UNM.
“That was the highlight for me,” Birmingham said, “that we got some freshmen innings and they responded. But it was midweek baseball. We pitched a lot of puppies and (the Aggies) threw everybody.”