New Mexico’s baseball program is in an unfamiliar position today as it hosts the UC Davis Aggies in the opener of the season-ending three-game weekend series at Santa Ana Star Field.
The Lobos (18-32-1) have nothing at stake besides pride in this nonconference series. At 11-19 and last in the seven-team Mountain West Conference, they’ve been eliminated from contention for the four-team postseason league event. But the Lobos will go with their regular weekend rotation beginning with sophomore right-hander Justin Slaten (2-8, 6.75) for tonight’s 6:30 opener (101.7 FM, streaming at themwc.com) against the Aggies (15-32, 7-14 Big West)
The 11th season for coach Ray Birmingham was going to be unusually reliant on freshmen anyway, but injuries have compounded the difficulties of a rebuilding year. Only once in Birmingham’s tenure (2011, 20-41) has UNM finished below .500. Birmingham is in his 30th season overall and without a coaching contract with UNM beyond this year.
The three Lobo seniors — pitcher James Harrington from Gilbert, Ariz., and Albuquerque’s Daniel Herrera, a catcher, and outfielder Danny Collier will be honored prior to Saturday’s 2 p.m. game. Sunday’s finale is at 1 p.m.
TRACK AND FIELD: Led by Bowerman Watch List runner and reigning NCAA champion Josh Kerr, 17 Lobos are qualified for the May 24-26 NCAA West Preliminary championships in Sacramento, Calif.
A top-12 finish at two the preliminary meets, which essentially comprise national semifinals, advances athletes to next month’s NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.
UNM has five top-three seeds, four coming from the Lobos’ 12th-ranked women. Events in which Lobo women are qualified:
5,000: Ednah Kurgat (No. 1 seed), Weini Kelati (3); 10,000: Alice Wright (2), Sophie Eckel; steeplechase: Charlotte Prouse (2), Alondra Negron Texidor; 1,500: Kieeran Casey; high jump: Ada’oro Chigbo; javelin: Michelle Traynham
Among the men:
1,500: Kerr (reigning NCAA champion), Ian Crowe-Wright; 800: Michael Wilson; 400: Carlos Salcido; 800: Kristian Uldbjerg Hansen; steeplechase: Jonny Glen; high jump: Brent Dionisio; long jump: Tanner Battikha.
New Mexico State is sending women to the prelims in three events — 400: Katara Nelson; triple jump: Hannah Smith; 4×100: Lashira Tremble, Tanisha Scott, Dominuqe Joiner and Nelson.
SOFTBALL: New Mexico State’s Kelsey Horton, two-time Western Athletic Conference player of the year, was named to the Pacific Region’s first team on Thursday. Horton leads the 29-22 Aggies to face host and No. 8 national seed Arizona State (43-11) today at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3.com) to begin the Tempe Regional. Long Beach State (42-12) and Ole Miss (30-23) are the other two teams competing in the double-elimination event in Tempe.
ACADEMICS: The Aggie women’s cross country, golf and tennis teams earned the NCAA Public Recognition Award this week for having perfect 1,000 Academic Progress Rating scores, which place them in the top 10 percent of their respective sports.
The NCAA releases the entirety of its APR scores next week.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Eastern New Mexico’s women’s program has signed Myra McCaskill to a letter of intent. A 5-foot-8 guard from Aztec, she was a two-time all-state selection.
“Great student and player,” ENMU coach Josh Prock said.
n The ENMU men also added a signee — 6-5 wing/forward Darius Sawyer, a junior college transfer from ASA Miami. He averaged 14 points and six rebounds a game this past season.