(Photo gallery: New Mexico State vs. New Mexico)
Past performances meant nothing at Santa Ana Star Field on Tuesday night.
New Mexico State came into the season’s first baseball Rio Grande rivalry lugging a 2-15 record. Host New Mexico brought in a 12-7 record and was leading Division I in hitting.
Final score: NMSU 2, UNM 0.
On a chilly night when baseballs did not carry, Volcano Vista alumnus Darius Garcia and two Aggies relievers combined to toss a five-hit shutout, and NMSU earned its first win over the Lobos since 2019.
Garcia (2-0) worked 5⅔ innings, allowing just two singles. The left-hander took full advantage of the conditions, getting 10 fly ball outs and letting his outfielders do the work.
“Darius was awesome,” Aggies interim coach Keith Zuniga said. “UNM is a good hitting team, and for him to come home and do this in front of his family has to feel good.”
Former Goddard star Cal Villareal provided all the support NMSU’s pitching staff needed, going 3-for-4 with a line-drive solo home run and a dazzling catch in center field among his career-high nine putouts. Villareal ran down Braydon Runion’s bullet in the right-center in the fourth innning, UNM’s hardest-hit ball of the night.
“Give (the Aggies) credit,” Lobos coach Tod Brown said. “They outplayed us in all three phases tonight. Our pitching was good, defense was good enough, but offensively we had no answers for their three pitchers.”
UNM starter Ben Baker-Livingston (0-2) was the hard-luck loser in his first start of the season, allowing one run on four hits in five innings. His only blemish was a leadoff walk in the second inning, which led to a two-out RBI single by NMSU’s Nick Gore.
That single run stood up until the ninth inning, as UNM’s hitters put little together against Garcia and relievers Noah Estrella and Matthew Maloney. The Lobos stranded runners at third base in the first and seventh innings.
New Mexico relievers Brian McBroom and Justin Still kept the margin at one run through the eighth, but Villareal tagged Terrell Hudson with his home run to right field to make the score 2-0.
UNM made things interesting in the ninth, getting a walk and a Kyle Smith double to put the potential tying runs aboard with one out. But Maloney got a short fly ball and a strikeout to send the Aggies home happy.
NMSU started this season 0-13 and fired previous coach Mike Kirby seven games in, but Zuniga’s team is 3-2 since then.
“We’ve been struggling,” Zuniga said, “but we’ve had so many games where one bad inning killed us. It was great to see us finish this one tonight.”
New Mexico swept four games from NMSU last season after the longtime rivals did not play in 2020 or ’21 because of the pandemic.
Smith finished 2-for-3 to pace UNM’s offense. Dylan Ditzenberger went 1-for-3 and extended his hitting streak to 16 games. He also extended his streak of games reaching base to 34 games.
FRIDAY: UNM at Nevada, 7:35 p.m., themw.com (streaming); UT Rio Grande Valley at New Mexico State, 6 p.m.