When all else fails, lean on the seniors and expect the best.
That was pretty much the formula for the No. 21-ranked New Mexico baseball team on Sunday afternoon, and lo and behold, it worked as the Lobos beat Oklahoma State 9-1 for their first win of the young season.
Senior catcher Mitchell Garver, after being behind the plate for all 13 innings of UNM's 15-14 loss the night before, went back out for another nine innings at Isotopes Park and also went 4-for-4 with three RBI, falling just a home run shy of the cycle.
"Wow, Mitch Garver's Johnny Bench, that's who Mitch Garver is," coach Ray Birmingham said. "They don't make many Mitch Garvers. You'll see him playing on TV someday, he's that good. What a great kid."
While Garver did his part, senior Sam Wolff turned in arguably his best start as a Lobo on the mound. The right-hander allowed just one run on three hits and two walks while striking out five in 5.2 innings.
"I felt good. I just needed to go out, throw strikes, pound the zone, let the defense work behind me," Wolff said. "Just force contact, that's all I wanted to do today. That's kind of the pitcher's job."
Garver and Wolff's efforts gave UNM (1-2) a much-needed victory, especially after Saturday's gut-wrenching loss when the Lobos coughed up an eight-run lead in the eighth and ninth innings.
"We had to find our stroke," Garver said. "The way we played today is who we are. We played good defense, we hit the ball around, we put pressure on (their) defense."
Garver was able to take advantage of the Cowboys' unwillingness to face D.J. Peterson, who was intentionally walked twice. Garver would follow up with an RBI single to ignite a five-run first inning and then smoked a two-run triple in the sixth inning.
"Oklahoma State was 0-for-3 in intentional walks this weekend," Garver said. "Every time they walked him I came up and got a hit and an RBI. That's why I'm there, I'm there to protect D.J. so if he gets on, all I have to do is do my job and put the ball in play."
That five-run outburst was all the Lobos would really need with Wolff on the mound.
"Sam did an excellent job, located down at the knees, probably 93 to 96 (miles per hour), good offspeed stuff and he got strike one a lot," Garver said. "When they started hitting his fastball first pitch we started throwing the curveball and mixing in the changeup every once in a while.
"What he did really well was throw strikes, trust the location, trust how good he is."
Wolff credited Garver with much of his success on the mound and much of the team's success overall.
"Mitchell's a leader, he's done it from day one," Wolff said. "Having a guy like that, who just caught 13 innings last night and then comes back the next day and goes 4-for-4, that kind of boosts everybody a little bit. That's a leader, he sets the mentality for everyone."
Alex Estrella would follow Wolff with 1.1 scoreless innings before Josh Walker tossed two perfect innings to finish the game.
The Lobos will hit the road for the next two weekends, first traveling to Corpus Christi, Texas, for a tournament in which they will face Oklahoma, Iowa and host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.