Open Announce

Jackie Robinson Day Saturday as Baseball Hosts Fresno State

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After not playing a home game in well over a month, the University of New Mexico Lobo Baseball team will make a triumphant return to Santa Ana Star Field for a three-game set with Fresno State starting with a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.  Capacity limits at Santa Ana Star Field have been raised to 50% in accordance with state regulations regarding COVID-19 protocols.

Fans will still need to wear masks inside Santa Ana Star Field and remain socially distant from other parties in the stands.  The increased capacity is a result of Bernalillo County moving from yellow to green on the state’s COVID map.  However, the Lobos are going to focus on the color yellow, at least for the opening game of the series as the Lobos will celebrate Jackie Robinson day with special edition jerseys.

UNM for the opening game will wear state pride jerseys that are yellow and red, the colors of the New Mexico flag.  Each jersey will have “42” and “Robinson” on the backs of the jerseys, with the regular player number in the front.  The Lobos were slated to wear the jerseys a month ago to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day with the rest of the baseball world, but its series was canceled.  Finally back home, head coach Ray Birmingham’s club will honor the pioneering Robinson on Saturday.

“Mr. Robinson means so much to all of us”, Coach Ray Birmingham said.  “His courage, character and strength have inspired me as a person and a coach.  The great state of New Mexico and The University of New Mexico are proud to honor this great man.”

UNM is coming off a tough four-game road trip in its return to action, going 1-2 against Washington in a quickly put-together series that came about just days before the series started.  UNM was ready to play UNLV at Santa Ana Star Field after two weeks away from the diamond but a COVID issue within UNLV’s program meant UNM would miss a third straight week.  Washington was scheduled to face Stanford, but Stanford also had a COVID issue, so UNM instead traveled to Washington.  All three games were close, with UNM losing twice by a run, once in 10 innings and once in the bottom of the ninth, and UNM winning the middle game in 12.

The Lobos faced No. 11 Texas Tech and battle well in a 10-4 loss on Wednesday.

Now, UNM comes in with 12 Mountain West games remaining, and despite a 6-9 Mountain West mark, the Lobos have a chance to make ground as the Lobos start the weekend just a half-game behind Fresno State and 1 1/2 games out of third place.  UNM trails first place San Diego State by five games, and still has three more games against the Aztecs.  San Diego State takes on Nevada on Friday and Saturday while UNLV and Air Force square off over the weekend.

UNM will need solid pitching and timely hitting to get past Fresno State, who won two of three in the first meetings in Fresno.  That lone win for UNM was a 10-inning 1-0 victory that was highlighted by one of the greatest pitching performances in the history of UNM as Justin Armbreuster went nine innings allowing just two hits while striking out 17.  His game score for the contest was 99, the best in at least 30 years at UNM.

The Lobos are 5-1 at home this season, and UNM will look to perfect weekend weather-wise to have UNM’s fans come out at the Lobos can now have well in excess of 1,000 fans at Santa Ana Star Field.  UNM will also need for Mack Chambers to continue his hot hitting.  The junior enters with a team leading .373 average, and he has hit safely in 11 straight, the longest streak for any Lobo this season.  Chambers has also reached base safely in all 26 games for UNM.  Chambers has been so good that his average has been below .333 in only one at bat the entire season, the fifth at bat of the opening game.  He was 1-for-4, hit a single in the ninth against Gonzaga and he has never dipped below .333 the rest of the season.