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Seven-Run Ninth-Inning Rally Leads Lobos to Walk-Off Win over Air Force

by Alma Solis

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico baseball team put up a seven-run ninth-inning rally to lead the Lobos to a walk-off 13-12 victory over Air Force in game two of the three-game series at Santa Ana Star Field.

The Lobos and Falcons will face off for the series finale on Sunday at noon (MT). Senior Day ceremonies will begin at approximately 11:35 a.m., as six seniors – Cody Holtz, Kyle Landers, Johnnie (Shane) Podsednik, Miguel Reyes Jr., Lance Russell and Kamron Willman – will be recognized.

In Saturday’s victory, Lenny Junior Ashby led the Lobos as he went 3-for-5 with four RBI and two runs, also notching his second grand slam of the season. Four more Lobos had multi-hit games as Kamron Willman, Braydon Runion, Willie Cano and Chase Weissenborn all recorded two hits apiece. New Mexico had five home runs as a team – Willman (2), Ashby (1), Runion (1) and Landers (1). On the mound, Terrell Hudson earned his second win of the season (2-0) as he pitched the final 4.0 innings.

Air Force opened scoring as the Falcons brought across a run in the top of the first, but the Lobos quickly responded in the bottom of the frame. On the second pitch he saw, he launched a leadoff homerun to right field to knot the game at 1-1.

A couple batters later, Ashby doubled to right center to put a runner on for hot-hitting Runion. Runion stepped up to the plate and launched a two-run homerun to left center to give the Lobos the 3-1 lead.

Starting pitcher Brett Russell started the second with two straight strikeouts while holding the Falcons scoreless in the frame.

In the bottom of the frame, Willman did what seems like the impossible…. He homered on consecutive pitches. After hitting a homerun in the first, Willman connected on the first pitch he saw in the second and went yard to left field. Weissenborn doubled right before so he scored on the homerun as well, extending the Lobo lead to 5-1.

Through the next four innings, the Lobos were kept silent and the Falcons scattered six runs in that time frame to go up by 7-5 after six full. Terrell Hudson kept Air Force off the board for the first time since the second inning, with a three up-three down seventh. He started the inning off with a strikeout, then forced two fly outs which were handled nicely by left fielder Ashby and center fielder Jeffrey David, respectively.

After Air Force added four runs to take a 11-5 lead in the top of the eighth, the Lobos began chipping away at their deficit. In the bottom of the frame, Landers connected for his fourth home run of the season, cutting the deficit to 11-6.

The Falcons scored another run in the top of the ninth to once again extend their lead to 12-6 but some great defensive plays got the Lobos out of the inning without further damage. Center fielder David made the first out on a nice leaping catch in right center. A groundout came straight to pitcher Hudson who then flipped it to first for the second out of the inning. The final out was made by Landers who laid out to catch a liner to right field that would have resulted in extra bases.

The Lobos then began the comeback tour in the bottom of the ninth. Kyle Smith flied out to centerfield to begin the inning. Justin Olson started the process of loading the bases with one out as he doubled to left field. Then, Willman walked and David was hit by pitch to juice the bases. Mountain West home run leader Ashby then walked up to the plate. He watched the first pitch make its way into the strike zone for a 0-1 pitch count. Then, he delivered as he launched the next pitch he saw past the right center field wall for a grand slam, cutting the Lobo deficit to a significantly less-menacing two runs (12-10).

After this, the Lobos knew the comeback was just within reach and took advantage of loading the bases once again. Runion first singled to center field then advanced to second on a passed ball. Next, Landers won an 11-pitch full house 3-2 pitch count, in which he fouled off four straight pitches to stay alive, as he was ultimately walked. Adam Schneider was then brought in as a pinch runner for Landers. Cano then singled to complete the bases-loaded mission. Coming back up to the plate was K. Smith, who led off the inning with a flyout. With a second chance, K. Smith knew he had to make it count. On a 2-1 count, he singled to right center as the Lobos came flying in… Runion and Schneider scored easily to tie the game, but then Cano was able to score on an error by the Falcons’ centerfielder. The Lobos successfully completed the comeback and walk-off 13-12 victory over Air Force in game two of three of the season-ending series.

New Mexico improves to a 21-32 overall record and 10-19 in Mountain West play, while Air Force falls to 26-27 overall and 14-15 in conference action.

The Lobos and Falcons close out the series tomorrow at noon at Santa Ana Star Field.

To keep up with Lobo baseball, follow @UNMLoboBaseball on Twitter and Instagram.