As it turned out, Sunday’s final score at Santa Ana Star Field was doubly significant.
The University of New Mexico baseball rolled to an 11-4 victory over Air Force, winning its first Mountain West series of the season and improving to, that’s right, 11-4 overall.
The Lobos got just about everything they could have wanted, bouncing back to win the three-game series after losing Friday’s opener, 9-7 in 10 innings. UNM outscored Air Force by a combined 26-4 over the final two games.
Dylan Ditzenberger and Lenny Junior Ashby had three hits apiece for UNM on Sunday, including three combined hits in an eight-run first inning that set the tone. The Lobos outhit the Falcons 17-7 and got home runs from Braydon Runion and Reed Spenrath to help put the win away.
“We know in conference every game is important,” Ditzenberger said. “We lost the opener but the thought was just to flush Friday, come back and play good baseball the next two days. That’s what we did.”
Ditzenberger, a lefty-hitting transfer from Kansas out of Allen, Texas, continued his torrid hitting, going 3-for-5 on Sunday. UNM’s third baseman extended his streak of games reaching base to 29 and improved his batting average to team- and MWC-best .476.
Typical of a hot hitter, Ditzenberger was not inclined to say much about it.
“Things are going well right now,” he said with a smile. “Can’t get too high now or too low when you’re struggling. That’s baseball.”
The Lobos have been battering the ball as a group, and that continued Sunday when all nine position players had at least one hit. But the most obvious change from last season has been pitching, and starting pitcher Isaac Gallegos did not disappoint against the Falcons (5-11, 1-2).
A day after teammate Tristin Lively tossed 8⅓ shutout innings, Gallegos allowed two runs on four hits with six strikeouts through Sunday’s first six frames. The junior right-hander was pulled after allowing a single and a walk to start the seventh.
Gallegos improved to 3-0 in his first UNM season after two at Trinidad State College. The former Grants High standout is enjoying the Lobos’ strong start as much as anyone.
“Pitching here is a dream,” he said. “This is where my heart is and it’s where I want to be.”
The Lobos staked Gallegos to a comfortable lead early, knocking out Air Force starter Seungmin Shim (2-1) in the bottom of the first inning. UNM’s first six batters collected five singles and a walk, with Jake Holland’s two-run base hit giving the hosts a 4-0 lead. Devon Dixon’s RBI double, Chase Weissenborn’s two-run double, and a run-scoring Jeffrey David single made the score 8-0.
Runion later socked a solo homer to left, his fourth of the season, and Spenrath blasted a two-run shot to center, his sixth, to cap the scoring.