State bragging rights still mean something to the University of New Mexico baseball team.
In what’s largely been a rough season for the Lobos and first-year coach Tod Brown, there have been some noteworthy highlights. Home wins over nationally ranked Arizona and Texas Tech, road series wins at Wichita State and Air Force and, perhaps best of all, a sweep of New Mexico State.
UNM completed its 4-0 run of the rivalry table Tuesday with a 12-4 victory over the Aggies at sunny Santa Ana Star Field. The Lobos (20-31) cracked three two-run homers – two by Braydon Runion, one by Willie Cano – and outhit the visiting Aggies (18-31) by a 15-7 count.
“It’s good to get the sweep,” said UNM shortstop Chase Weissenborn, an Albuquerque Academy alum and one of six New Mexicans on the Lobos’ roster. “I was definitely aware we had a chance to sweep them. Growing up here, I always want to beat the Aggies. We showed up as a group and played good ball against them.”
Weissenborn played a significant role, going 3-for-4 with a triple, three RBIs and two runs scored. At least as significant, however, was UNM’s pitching, which has not been a source of strength throughout much of the season.
Freshman Benjamin Baker-Livingston (2-1) worked five solid innings Tuesday, and relievers Riley Egloff and Terrell Hudson limited NMSU to one run on three hits over the final four innings.
“Today our pitching was outstanding,” Brown said. “Great start by Baker-Livingston and the bullpen finished the job. They were throwing strike one, getting ahead and making the hitters adjust. It was good to see.”
It’s not something Brown has seen often enough as UNM came into the game ranked last in the Mountain West with an 8.79 team earned-run average. But the Lobos seemed to save their best for NMSU this season, outscoring the Aggies 51-17 over the four-game series.
New Mexico started fast Tuesday, getting a Kamron Willman single and a two-out homer by Runion in the bottom of the first inning.
Runion’s 11th long ball of the season was a line-drive shot to left, barely high enough to clear the fence, off Cade Swenson (1-3), the first of eight NMSU pitchers on a bullpen day.
Weissenborn tripled home Johnnie Podsednik, who had singled, and later came home on a Willman groundout in the second to give UNM a 4-0 lead.
New Mexico State scratched its way back into things, with two runs in the third and another in the fifth. RBI triples by Brandon Dieter and Kevin Jimenez helped pull the visitors to within 4-3.
But Cano launched a two-run homer to right-center in the bottom of the fifth to make it 6-3, and UNM broke things open with a six-run rally in the seventh. Runion’s second home run of the day and 12th of the season sparked the big inning, which included a two-run single by Weissenborn and an RBI triple by Willman.
“We do have some things to hang our hats on this year,” Brown said, “and sweeping this series is one of them. Hopefully we can carry this into the weekend and finish on a good note.”
UNM hosts Air Force for a season-ending three-game series beginning Thursday at 6 p.m.