New Mexico advances to championship, Air Force to play Nevada
The second-seeded New Mexico baseball team (37-21) advances to the 2016 Mountain West Championship after a 6-4 win over No. 5 Air Force (30-26) Friday evening at Santa Ana Star Field, on the campus of the University of New Mexico.
The 2016 Mountain West Championship will be played tomorrow at 5 p.m. MT. The Lobos will face the winner of the Nevada-Air Force matchup that is set for 1 p.m. MT.
“We are going to have to play really, really well to finish this off,” said New Mexico head coach Ray Birmingham. “We are down to one starter and we’ve lost our record-setting closer. It’s all there, it all can happen. The great thing is, they are competing. They are scratching and clawing, and that’s what Lobo baseball is.”
The game was tied 4-4 going into the sixth before the Lobos took their first lead of the game and held on for the win. Junior Chris DeVito hit a solo shot over the right field wall to push the Lobos to a 5-4 lead. They put another run on the board in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by senior Michael Eaton.
“I didn’t try to do too much,” said DeVito. “That was just one run and we scored six today, so it was a team effort. Winning is our goal every night. This fires us up.”
Air Force took the lead in the first inning, plating three runs off Lobo right-handed starter Tyler Stevens. Another run came across for the Falcons in the second, 4-0, but Stevens settled down on the mound and kept them scoreless for the next five innings.
The Lobos comeback started in the third inning and was surged by freshman Andrew Pratt. Pratt sent a two-run shot over the left field wall to cut the Air Force lead in half, 4-2. The Lobos tied the game up in the fourth after a DeVito RBI double down the left field line and a RBI single from junior Andre Vigil.
Stevens claimed the win to improve to 8-4 on the season. He allowed four runs, one earned, off seven hits while striking out six in seven innings of work. Freshman right-hander Christian Tripp earned the save, his fourth on the season, as he entered the game in the eighth and had one strikeout. Tripp’s 24th appearance this season set UNM’s freshman record for most appearances. Nick Biancalana took the loss for Air Force, dropping to 3-5 overall. He allowed five runs, off seven hits while striking out six in six innings of work.
Four Lobo players had two hits each with DeVito leading the way with two RBIs and two runs scored. For Air Force, Adam Groesbeck led the Falcons at the plate with a 2-for-4 effort and two runs scored.