Talk about a less-than-satisfying finish.
The University of New Mexico baseball team was one out away from a doubleheader sweep of San Diego State and what would have been an eighth straight victory Friday.
That clinching never came.
After scoring the final 11 runs and clobbering the Aztecs 17-7 in game one, the Lobos watched the nightcap slip away in painful fashion. San Diego State scored two runs with two outs in the ninth and stole a 6-5 win for the doubleheader split.
The teams will play a rubber game to decide the series, wrap up UNM’s season and provide a finale for Lobos coach Ray Birmingham, who has announced his retirement. New Mexico will have a pregame ceremony to honor its 15 seniors beginning at 11:30 a.m. First pitch is scheduled for noon.
As for Friday’s good-news, bad-news scenario, the upside for New Mexico came first. The Lobos (16-24, 10-16 Mountain West) rallied to win a wild one in which they led 5-0, later trailed 7-6 and finally walked off after scoring 11 straight runs to invoke the 10-run mercy rule in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Connor Mang and Harry Fullerton homered for UNM, Mack Chambers smacked a bases-loaded triple and drove in four runs, and Kyler Castillo went 4-for-4 with three RBIs to start what would be a monster day for the senior outfielder.
Game one was tied 7-7 after five innings at Santa Ana Star Field, but Chambers’ RBI hit and a two-run single by Castillo in the sixth gave UNM a 10-7 lead. The home team put it away with a seven-run rally in the seventh, capped by Willie Cano’s run-scoring single to end the game.
Game two was more of a pitchers’ affair as SDSU starter Troy Melton and New Mexico’s Justin Armbruester battled through five innings before leaving with the Lobos holding a 4-3 lead. San Diego State’s Jacob Cruce greeted reliever Miguel Reyes Jr. with the second of his two solo home runs to tie things at 4-4 in the sixth.
Reyes settled in from there, and UNM put him in position to earn a win when Castillo singled home Chambers in the seventh to make the score 5-4. Castillo finished the game 4-for-4 and was a remarkable 8-for-8 in the doubleheader.
The Lobos were on the brink of a sweep when Reyes retired the first two Aztecs batters by strikeout in the ninth inning, but the right-hander suddenly lost the strike zone. He issued a two-out walk, hit the next batter and wild pitch allowed both runners to advance. After an intentional walk, Caden Miller delivered a two-run single to give SDSU (29-16, 21-14) a 6-5 lead.
UNM’s hopes of a ninth-inning rally ended when Chambers grounded into a double play, leaving Castillo in the on-deck circle.