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Lobos Fall in Heartbreaking Series Opener against Spartans

by Alma Solis

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico baseball team fought back from a seven run deficit at the halfway mark of the game, but were unable to close it out, falling to San Jose State, 17-16, in the series opener on Friday night at Santa Ana Star Field.

Lenny Junior Ashby had an outstanding day at the plate as he went 4-for-6 with five RBI and two runs, including hitting hit 11th home run of the season. Four more Lobos notched multi-hit games, including Jeffrey David (2-for-4), Kyle Landers (3-for-5), Cody Holtz (2-for-6) and Cole Posey (3-for-5).

The Spartans took advantage of some early rust by starter Brett Russell, notching two hits to start the first and bringing home one run for a 1-0 lead. B. Russell got into his groove as he then forced a fly out, swinging strikeout and ground out.

B. Russell then notched another strikeout swinging in the second, but allowed three more runs as San Jose State jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

The Lobos found their way onto the board in the bottom of the frame as Landers jumped on the first ball he saw to double to center. Landers then advanced to third on a fly out by Willie Cano, also on the first pitch he saw. Holtz then jumped on a 2-2 pitch count to single through the left side, bringing around the Lobos’ first run as Landers scored from third.

Holtz then advanced to second on a wild pitch by the Spartans’ starter Jonathan Clark. With Holtz in scoring position, Posey singled up the middle to drive him in and cut the Lobo deficit to 4-2.

The third and fourth innings went without a score change. B. Russell forced a three up-three down third inning on two strikeouts and a ground out.

The Spartans exploded for five runs in the fifth frame to take a 9-2 lead, but New Mexico answered with four of their own in the bottom of the frame to make the score 9-6, still in favor of San Jose State.

Posey opened up the bottom of the inning with a double to right field and then advanced to an obstruction error by the Spartans’ third baseman Nathan Cadena. Chase Weissenborn grounded out to shortstop, just enough to get Posey across the plate.

Another out on a strikeout put two outs on the board as David connected on the first pitch he saw in the at-bat and tripled to right field. Ashby then came up and singled through the right side to bring around David, before he was brought home on a two-run opposite field homerun by Kyle Smith.

Both teams brought around another run each in the sixth to make the score 10-7. With runners on first and second in the bottom of the inning, Sean Stephens worked a full count and singled through the right side to bring home Cano.

The Spartans plated a pair of runs in the seventh, while the Lobos responded with a single run in the bottom of the frame. With runners on first and third and two outs, the Lobos were looking to score in any way they could. A wild pitch by San Jose State’s Darren Jansen let New Mexico do exactly that as David scored on the wild pitch.

Terrell Hudson came in to pitch the eighth and sat down the Spartans in order on a ground out, swinging strikeout and ground out. New Mexico’s offense went to work in the bottom of the frame, exploding for eight runs.

Posey started off the inning with a single, while Weissenborn and Stephens followed with walks to load the bases. David then walked on a 3-1 pitch count, walking in Posey from third.

Next up, the Lobos’ slugger Ashby stepped up to the plate. He swung for the fences on the first pitch but didn’t connect. On the next pitch he saw, he blasted it to right field for a grand slam, giving the Lobos a 13-12 lead, their first lead of the game. The last time New Mexico hit a grand slam was earlier this season when Justin Olson launched one in the Lobos’ 12-7 win over then-No. 11 Arizona on March 23, 2022.

This wasn’t the end of the scoring in the frame though, as New Mexico added a trio of insurance runs in the inning. K. Smith walked on four pitches right after Ashby’s grand slam. Then, Kyle Landers walked on a full count. A batter later, Holtz singled to left field to bring home K. Smith. Holtz and Landers then scored on a two-run double by Chase Weissenborn, giving the Lobos a 16-12 cushion.

The Spartans notched five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and although New Mexico was able to get bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, the Lobos were unable to produce another run, falling to San Jose State, 17-16, in the series opening heartbreaker.

New Mexico’s record falls to 16-25 overall (7-15 in Mountain West action), while San Jose State’s record improves to 23-19 overall and 12-10 in conference play.

The Lobos and Spartans go head-to-head for the second of the three-game conference series on Saturday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. (MT) at Santa Ana Star Field.

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