Lobos fall in final inning to No. 8 Oregon State
SURPRISE, Ariz. – Opening Day of the 2019 season was nearly a joyous one for the University of New Mexico baseball team as they nearly pulled off an upset of consensus Top-10 nationally-ranked and defending National Champion, Oregon State. However, it was a pair of three-run innings that lifted Oregon State past UNM in walk-off fashion, 6-5, on Friday afternoon in Surprise, Ariz.
Both three-run innings for the Beavers (1-0) came in the latter-third of the game as Lobo (0-1) pitching held OSU to no runs on just one hit through the first six innings of action. As the pitching was keeping the Beavers off the scoreboard, the Lobos offense produced four runs on six hits during that same stretch to stake UNM to a 4-0 lead through six innings.
The first run of the game was driven in by true freshman Tyler Kelly in the top of the second inning. It was Kelly’s first collegiate at-bat, hit and RBI scoring Derek Marshall Jr., who led off the inning with a walk against preseason All-America selection Kevin Abel. The RBI opportunity for Kelly was also set up by a single by Jeff Deimling in the at-bat prior that pushed Marshall Jr. into scoring position.
Abel began to settle in and pitched scoreless innings in the third, fourth and fifth. In the top of the sixth, however, the Lobos chased Abel from the start by scoring three runs in the inning. That inning began with a walk to Hayden Schilling. Following that, Jared Mang hammered a two-run home run out to left-centerfield to make it 3-0, UNM. Conner Mang then doubled to centerfield prompting the move to the Beaver bullpen. A one-out single to third base by Deimling moved C. Mang to third with one out. That’s when Kelly picked up his second RBI of the game, reaching on a fielder’s choice to score C. Mang.
Prior to that big inning for the Lobos, starter Justin Slaten had to pitch out of a bases loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the fifth. The first two Beavers reached base that inning on a walk and then an error. A sacrifice bunt pushed both players into scoring position with one out. Slaten then issued another walk that loaded the bases. After the second walk, Slaten had to face preseason All-American and last year’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player, Adley Rutschman. Slaten would eventually strikeout Rutschman for the second time and then induced a harmless grounder to second to escape the jam.
That would also be the final inning of work for Slaten as the junior right-hander pitched well in his season debut allowing just one hit, no runs, walking five and striking out five.
Blake Walden came on in relief of Slaten in the sixth and worked around a one-out error to pitch a scoreless frame. Walden came back out in the seventh, but a walk and hit-by-pitch brought Malachi Emond into the game. Emond got the first two batters he faced out, but an error extended the inning. The Beavers capitalized on the extra out and plated three unearned runs to make it a one-run game, 4-3.
Neither team scored in the eighth, but the Lobos were able to get a run of insurance in the top of the ninth thanks to a RBI infield single by Schilling. That RBI by Schilling scored Brayden Merritt who had a one-out infield single two batters prior.
Now leading by two, 5-3, the Lobos sent Emond back out on the mound. In the eighth, Emond had retired the Beavers in order for the first time all game. In the bottom of the ninth, however, the Beavers would get to Emond. A leadoff double followed by a single to right field scored a run and quickly made it a one-run game once more. A single and a walk then followed to load the bases with no outs. The Beavers then turned to their bench for pinch-hitter Greg Fuchs. Fuchs would come through with a game-winning single through the left side that scored a pair and gave the Beavers the 6-5 come-from-behind victory.
The Lobos will be back in action on Saturday as they will take on another nationally-ranked opponent in No. 24 Minnesota. First-pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.