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Dixon's Epic Walk-off Grand Slam Completes Lobo Rally, Series Sweep of SDSU

by Connor Gilbert

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Baseball trailed for nearly the entirety of its Mountain West series finale with San Diego State on Sunday until a walk-off grand slam from Devon Dixon in his only at-bat of the game completed a series sweep and 4-0 week in the most dramatic fashion humanly possible, with the Lobos (23-19, 12-9 MW) winning 9-7.

With one on the board and at risk of a double play ball ending the game with three runners aboard, Dixon delivered in only his third plate appearance of the week with one of the biggest hits of his Lobo career to turn back the Aztecs one more time. It was the ninth homer of his UNM career and second grand slam — the other being on the road at Fresno State last season (March 18, 2023) — and the first four-run walk-off homer since May 20, 2022, when Kyle Smith hit one to cap off a seven-run ninth against Air Force at home (13-12).

UNM’s fourth straight win completes the first three-game weekend series sweep of San Diego State since 2013 and first in Albuquerque since 2012. After entering this season winless against the Aztecs in his first two seasons at the helm, UNM Head Coach Tod Brown has beaten them in four out of six meetings this season to take the regular-season series.

With Air Force (19-23, 11-9 MW) and Nevada (19-21, 12-11 MW) set to close out their series on Monday, the Lobos are in sole possession of second place in the MW standings for the time being after opening the week in a tie for fourth. At worst, they’ll be tied for second heading into a road series at UNLV (23-20, 10-14 MW) next weekend.

The Lobos fell behind by as much as 7-1 before scoring the final eight runs of the game over the final four frames while holding the Aztecs (11-32, 5-16 MW) scoreless the rest of the way. UNM picked up nine of its 13 hits in total over the final four, capped off by Dixon’s one-out bomb – his third homer of the season and UNM’s second grand slam this week– that sealed the deal with a swing of the bat.

Originally entering the game as a pinch runner in the prior inning, Dixon got his first at-bat of the game – and only his second of the week – with one out on the board and bases loaded in the ninth after a leadoff single from Reed Spenrath was followed by a walk from Gene Trujillo and another base hit from Josh McAlister. He sailed the second pitch he saw on a 1-0 count to left center to score all four and end the game with a raucous celebration at home plate.

Prior to today, Dixon had only gotten two at-bats all week — both late in Saturday’s 19-5 series-clinching win — and appeared only as a late-game defensive substitute in UNM’s games on Tuesday and Friday.

Dixon was one of three Lobos to go yard on Sunday along with Khalil Walker and Josh McAlister, who both crushed a solo shot each in the sixth – the duo both finished with two hits each. Reed Spenrath led the Lobos’ order with a four-hit outing that included two doubles, scoring two runs and driving in another in the process. Will Asby, Jake Holland (1 R) and Tye Wood (1 RBI) all added a hit each to round things out.

But UNM wouldn’t have been able to battle back without yet another great performance on the bump from its relievers – LHP Jaren Jackson (2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) and RHP Wil Bannister (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K) combined to blank the Aztecs for the final three frames after they plated five between the fifth and sixth and looked poised to run away with it. Bannister earned his second win of the season and has now only allowed an earned run once in his last 11 appearances after four scoreless innings across three appearances this week.

UNM started the week with a loud 17-3 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock on Tuesday and kept rolling upon their return to the Land of Enchantment this weekend, batting .395 as a team over the week while holding opponents to a .254 clip. 11 different Lobos finished with multiple RBIs as UNM averaged 16.2 hits and 14.31 runs in that span.
The Lobos’ 4.00 team ERA this week is its best in a four-game span all season, with Wil Bannister holding opponents to a .077 average in three appearances (4.0 IP) while posting a 0.00 ERA on the week — he pitched the final inning in all three.
UNM hit nine homers as a team, with Khalil Walker, Josh McAlister and Will Asby all hitting two each — Asby led the Lobos in hits (10) on the week while tying with Chase Weissenborn for most RBI (8). Walker led the Lobos in batting average over the weekend series (.600) while showing a lot of pop for a contact guy, doubling twice and homering against the Aztecs in the finale.

The Lobos return to Las Cruces Tuesday for their third meeting with in-state rivals New Mexico State (20-23, 7-11 C-USA) this season. Tuesday’s first pitch at Presley Askew Field is set for a 6 p.m. MT start. The two teams split the first two matchups.

For the first time this weekend it was the Aztecs who struck first, with a pair of leadoff base hits and a sac fly getting the first run across. With runners at the corners and one out, Barnhouse used his breaking ball to strike out the next two batters swinging and keep the damage to just one.

Holland got UNM’s first hit in the bottom of the frame after the Lobos’ top two were kept off the basepaths but was thrown out at second f.

Barnhouse settled in with a 1-2-3 inning after taking the mound again in the second, striking out two more to reach five consecutive batters retired with four strikeouts – all swinging – in that span. After Spenrath and McAlister drew walks in the second but were both stranded by a strikeout in the bottom of the frame, a pair of two-out hits broke up Barnhouse’s streak of at seven retired and added another run to SDSU’s lead before Weissenborn stitched a grounder to keep things moving.

The Lobos got their best chance yet in the fourth after Steinkamp generated two outs in succession for a scoreless top of the inning, loading the bases with one out thanks to a leadoff double from Spenrath and walks from Wood and McAlister. But once again, the Lobos were stranded, with Weissenborn striking out on four pitches and Walker grounding out to first on a full count to keep the score unchanged.

McBroom took over in the fifth after a walk and single in succession put runners at the corners with nobody out, but couldn’t get through the rest of the inning – the Aztecs got three more across to go up 5-0 and cue Jackson’s entry into the game with two on and two out. 

The senior lefty stranded the bases loaded with a big strikeout to keep things from getting out of hand, and the Lobos finally got on the board in the bottom frame. After Holland was walked, Spenrath smoked his second double of the game 114 mph off the bat to score him all the way from first and trim the deficit to four.

But the Aztecs got two more back after two singles and a triple led off the sixth, going up 7-1 before Jackson responded with three outs in succession with the runner on third. UNM punched back this time, though – McAlister and Walker both mashed solo homers for the second time this week to get the Lobos back within four, and Jackson needed only eight pitches to get through a 1-2-3 top of the seventh and get the Lobos back to the plate.

The Lobos made it three straight innings with a run scored after being kept off the board through four with three consecutive two-out knocks from Spenrath, Trujillo and Wood that cut the deficit down to three with two aboard and the tying run at the plate, but McAlister struck out to halt the advance there.

Bannister put another zero on the board after taking over to start the eighth and the Lobos threatened again immediately. Ethan Ott drew a leadoff walk in a pinch-hit at-bat and Dixon – who replaced him as a pinch runner at first – advanced all the way to third on a single from Walker that followed before scoring on a sac fly from Kinkade to get the Lobos within two before a lineout and another K from Holland left the Lobos with just three outs to work with.

As it turns out, they didn’t need three — just one. After Bannister worked his way out of a minor jam with a runner on third in the top of the ninth with a four-pitch strikeout to end the inning, only one of the next five UNM batters were retired before Dixon’s epic slam closed out a weekend in which the Lobos played some of their best ball of the season.