Lobo Classics: Baseball takes series at #1 Texas
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico Athletic Department is excited to launch the weekly series “Lobo Classics” as we attempt to help navigate the uncertainty within all of our lives and within the world of sports. With that said, we decided to launch this series by looking back at our baseball program’s 2010 opening weekend series at No. 1-ranked Texas.
Prior to the abrupt cancellation of sports across the NCAA landscape, the Lobos were scheduled to make a return trip to Austin to take on the Longhorns. Texas was not going to be the No. 1-ranked team in the country in this year’s matchup, but as a perineal powerhouse program, the Longhorns were still going to be nationally-ranked and a marquee opponent for the Lobos.
The series that was scheduled to be played March 13-15 was shaping up to be good one as the Lobos were on a roll, winning their last six games and sporting a 14-4 record, while the Longhorns were on a four-game winning streak and were poised to enter the weekend with a 14-3 record. While the results on the field were not able to be played out this year, the series back in 2010 helped set Lobo Baseball on the course for perhaps their most-successful decade ever in the 2010s.
“The series at Texas changed Lobo Baseball,” remarked head baseball coach Ray Birmingham. “Our program hadn’t been to a NCAA Regional since 1962 and we had finished runner-up to TCU the two seasons prior. While we ended up finishing behind TCU once more in 2010, our series victory at Texas led to us earning an at-large bid into the regional, breaking the drought for our program and spurring us on to regional appearances in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016.”
The year prior to the Lobos and Longhorns meeting up saw UNM win 37 games, but a two-and-out Mountain West Tournament ended any hopes of a regional appearance. Meanwhile, the Longhorns, led by legendary head coach Auggie Garrido, were coming off a 50-win season that saw them make their 33rd trip to the College World Series and fall just a game short of a national title; setting the stage for their preseason top-ranking the following year.
As coach Birmingham explained it, the Texas series even being scheduled came as an unexpected surprise. “We were playing at St. Mary’s during the 2009 season when I received an email from the NCAA saying that the 2010 season would begin a week earlier, allowing for an extra series to take place,” notes Birmingham. “I immediately called Auggie on his cell phone and asked him if we could schedule a series at their place to start the year. He agreed and that’s how the series was scheduled.”
Coming into that series and season for that matter, Texas featured a highly-touted pitching staff that would see five pitchers from that staff go on to make it to the big leagues. Headlining the formidable staff was Taylor Jungmann. Jungmann, who was the ace of that staff and pitched the series-opener vs. the Lobos, went on to be selected 12th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft.
In that opening game, Jungmann pitched like an ace and ended up working 7.0 innings and allowing just two runs (one earned), walking one and striking out eight. The dominance of Jungmann in that game was supported early on by the Longhorn offense as they struck for three runs in the bottom of the first. Texas then went on take a 6-0 lead through four innings thanks to a run in the second and two in the fourth.
The Lobos were able to get to Jungmann some in the fifth inning as Alex Allbritton led off with a single and eventually scored on a wild pitch. An inning later, the Lobos plated another run to make it a 6-2 game, this time on a single up the middle by Kenny Held to score Chris Juarez. That would end up being the final runs scored in the game as Texas went on to win the opener 6-2.
Undeterred by the result, the Lobos came back to the famed Disch-Falk Field the following day and jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first off of Longhorn starter Brandon Workman, who went on to be a second-round pick by the Boston Red Sox later that season.
In that first inning, the Lobos got things started with a two-out walk to Rafael Neda. Following the walk to Neda, cleanup hitter Ryan Honeycutt belted a two-run home run out to left field. Despite the early lead for the Lobos, Texas answered back with a vengeance in the bottom half as they scored four runs on five hits and benefitted from a Lobo error as well. An inning later, Texas extended their lead to three runs, 5-2 with a run in the bottom of the second.
A half inning later, the Lobos got that run back on an unearned run in the top of third. Scoring that run was Justin Howard. After Howard led off that inning with a single, he then ended up at third on a throwing error by the Longhorn catcher attempting to pickoff Howard. Immediately following the miscue, Neda made a productive out and drove in Howard on a groundout to second base.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Lobos were able to draw a run closer at 5-4 as another groundout to second base platted a run. This time it was Kenny Held driving in Max Willett, who tripled to lead off the inning in the at-bat prior.
Despite the rocky start to game two on the mound for the Lobos, they were able to find stability in the form of Kenny Toves. Entering the game in the bottom of the second inning, Toves got the final two outs of that inning and then went on to pitch the next 5.0 innings, keeping the Longhorns scoreless during that time. Able to keep the score 5-3, Toves then handed the ball over to true freshman and Albuquerque native, Austin House.
Making his collegiate debut in a hostile environment, House settled in right away retiring the first two batters he faced on a flyout and a groundout. House then issued a two-out walk, but that was quickly erased on a fielder’s choice in the next at-bat.
The next time House would take the mound in the game, it was to preserve a potential Lobo victory as the Lobos stuck for two runs in the top of the ninth.
In that ninth, Jordan Howard cranked a one-out solo home run to tie the game at five-all. That homer came off of Longhorn closer Chance Ruffin. Ruffin would go on to be a first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers that year. Following that homer, the Lobos then got consecutive singles from Neda and Honeycutt to put runners on the corners with one out. A fielding error by Ruffin then loaded the bases. In the ensuing at-bat, the Lobos found themselves on top of the top-ranked Longhorns as Willett hit a sacrifice fly out to left field.
Back on the mound in his collegiate debut, House remained calm and collected, making quick work of the Longhorns as he retired them in order. The win for the Lobos was their first over No. 1-ranked team in program history. Prior to that, the Lobos were 0-for-9 with all nine games having been against Arizona State.
The momentum of that landmark victory carried over into the rubber game of the series on Sunday.
Neither team would score through the first three innings of the game as a pitcher’s duel was taking shape. The Lobos, however, were able to crack the scoreboard first in the top of the fourth thanks to a RBI double by Kenny Held.
That score held until the bottom of the sixth when the Longhorns pushed across their lone run of the game. That run came against Lobo starter Mike Lachapelle, but it would be a minor blip in his start as he would pitch 6.0 innings, scatter seven hits, walk one and strike out one en route to his first win as a Lobo.
Lachapelle was put in position for that victory after Justin Howard singled home Alex Allbritton in the top of the seventh, giving the Lobos a 2-1 lead. Lachapelle then gave the ball to Edwin Carl. Carl, who appeared in the opener of the series, was virtually lights out in his second outing against the Longhorns. In the seventh, Carl worked around a one-out to eventually retire the side in order.
A half inning later, the Lobos secured a run of insurance thanks to a single up the middle by Held.
In the bottom of the eighth, Carl pitched another scoreless frame while picking up a pair of strikeouts. He then came back to the mound for the ninth and struck out the first batter he faced. A walk to the next batter, however, ended the day for Carl as Jason Oatman came on. The Longhorns then singled off of Oatman to put the tying run on base. The Lobos then turned to the bullpen once more, this time for Gera Sanchez.
The sophomore transfer quickly got a strikeout for the second out of the inning and then put the nails down of his first save as a Lobo by inducing a fielder’s choice in the next at-bat.
The win gave the Lobos the improbable series victory over the top-ranked Longhorns and was the starting point for what turned out to be the program’s first trip to a NCAA Regional since 1962. A total of 10 players on that 2010 team went on to play professional baseball with eight being drafted. Among those being drafted were Rafael Neda, Willy Kesler, Kenny Toves, Justin Howard, Ryan Honeycutt, Austin House, Mitch Garver and Alex Allbritton. Edwin Carl and Gera Sanchez went on to sign free agent deals.
About Lobo Classics
The goal of the “Lobo Classics” series is to highlight some of the greatest moments in the history of UNM Athletics. These types of moments can consist of specific games, individual performances, record-breaking achievements or even entire championship seasons. It is our intention that during this period of uncertainty, we can bring some joy and happiness to our unwaveringly loyal fans that make up Lobo Nation!
As part of this endeavor, Lobo Athletics wants to make this an interactive project and are opening up for suggestions from Lobo fans everywhere. Fans can make suggestions that they would like to see highlighted in “Lobo Classics” by tweeting to @UNMLobos and using the hashtag #LoboClassics. Fans can also submit suggestions through email: email@example.com.