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Devon Dixon hit a grand slam in the second inning Saturday, but the Lobos lost 9-8 at Fresno State on a heartbreaking walk-off hit.

Lobos lose heartbreaker on walk-off in 9th

by Evan O'Kelly

FRESNO, Calif. – Tommy Hopfe delivered a heartbreaking walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday evening at Pete Beiden Field, giving host Fresno State a 9-8 comeback win over the New Mexico baseball team in Mountain West play.

The Lobos were one strike away from securing an 8-7 victory and evening the weekend series, before the improbable rally took shape. Travis Welker punched a single into center field, and an ensuing hit batter and walk loaded the bases for Hopfe. After working a full count, he muscled the game-winning hit into the left-center gap to easily score two runs without a play at home plate.

The final score marked the only time in the game that Fresno State led, as UNM scored early and held the advantage nearly the entire night. The bitter defeat dropped the Lobos’ record to 11-7 and 2-3 in conference play. Fresno State meanwhile improved to 10-7 on the year and is now 4-3 in Mountain West action.

Devon Dixon hit a grand slam in the second inning and Kyle Smith added a home run, but the Lobos stranded 10 runners on base in the game.

Dylan Ditzenberger beat out a slow chopper to first base to lead off the game, before coming around to score on a passed ball, a ground out by Jeffrey David, and a wild pitch to make the score 1-0. The Bulldogs countered right away, when Payton Allen punched a two-out, RBI-single into right-center in the bottom of the first to tie the score.

Singles in succession from Reed Spenrath, Smith, and Deylan Pigford set the table for Dixon in the top of the second, and the junior turned around on an inside pitch to blast it over the fence in left-center and give UNM a 5-1 lead.

Smith smashed a low line drive to left field in the top of the fourth, and watched it just carry over the wall to add a run to the Lobos’ lead. UNM kept the rally going and loaded the bases with two outs, before Lenny Junior Ashby drove in his team-leading 24th run of the season with a walk to make the score 7-4.

After notching his fourth strikeout of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a two-out single by Welker ended the day for UNM starter Tristin Lively who gave way to Jaren Jackson. Lively wound up allowing four runs – two earned – on 10 hits with four strikeouts and a pair of walks in the no decision.

New Mexico threatened to extend its lead in the top of the sixth, loading the bases with two outs. But Fresno State reliever Zach Statzer kept his composure and stranded all three runners with a harmless pop up to center field. The Bulldogs followed by loading the bases in the bottom of the inning, and Bobby Blandford delivered a two-out, three-run double to tie the score at 7-7.

Ditzenberger came through with a clutch, two-out RBI-single in the top of the seventh, as he brought home Chase Weissenborn from second after the Lobo shortstop singled and advanced on a wild pitch. Brian McBroom used a pair of good defensive plays by Spenrath at first and a strikeout to post a shutdown inning in the bottom of the seventh, before Wil Bannister entered and struck out two hitters in a clean eighth inning.

Bannister came close to finishing the job in the ninth, but the Bulldogs were able to piece together the last-ditch rally to secure the series win.

FSU starter Jake Dixon allowed five runs on five hits while striking out one in his two innings of work, before handing the ball off to a cast of five relievers to get through the game.

LOBO NOTES: UNM is now 31-34-1 all-time against Fresno State and 11-23-1 in road games against the Bulldogs…Dixon’s grand slam was the Lobos’ second of the season, after Spenrath hit one last Tuesday at Grand Canyon…it was Dixon’s third home run of the season and the ninth of his career…Dixon achieved four RBIs in a game for the fourth time in his collegiate career and for the first time as a Lobo…Smith’s home run was his second of the year and the ninth of his collegiate career…Ditzenberger extended his reached base streak to 32 games and his hitting streak to 14 games.

NEXT UP: The series wraps up on Sunday afternoon, with a 2:05 p.m. (MT) first pitch in the finale.