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Lobos end their skid with wild extra-inning victory

Sam Haggerty went 3-for-4, falling a home run shy of the cycle, as the Lobos beat UNLV.
Sam Haggerty went 3-for-4, falling a home run shy of the cycle, as the Lobos beat UNLV.
Courtesy of UNM

The New Mexico baseball team needed a victory Sunday afternoon about as badly as ever.

In almost fitting fashion, the host Lobos somehow pulled out a dramatic 5-4 win over UNLV in 12 innings.

"Jeez, it was good to get one out of the three this weekend," senior right-hander Josh Walker said. "It gives us some momentum."

UNM (9-6-1, 1-2 Mountain West) suffered a pair of stomach-punch losses Friday and Saturday, largely due to some unlikely errors by usually sure-handed players.

"I don't know, I've never seen it (before), it's bizarre," coach Ray Birmingham said of the costly mistakes.

It looked like Sunday was going to be more of the same when right fielder Chase Harris dropped a flyball, allowing Erik VanMeetren to score the go-ahead run in the 12th inning.

"It was pretty rough, but we've done this before so many times, especially a lot of the older guys," senior John Pustay said. "So we weren't really worried. We knew we would have a chance to win.

"(The error) was kind of a dagger in the heart, but we still knew we had a chance."

In the bottom of the frame, the Lobos bounced back for their senior teammate. Sam Haggerty drew a leadoff walk and freshman Danny Collier followed with a sharp single to right field.

Harris then earned some redemption by bunting for a base hit. Third baseman T.J. White grabbed the ball and fired wildly past first base for an error, allowing Haggerty to score the tying run.

UNLV (10-4, 5-1) opted to intentionally walk Alex Real to load the bases with no outs. UNM then pinch hit Pustay, who was 9-for-24 in that role last season.

This time around he chopped a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Matt McCallister was able to throw to second base for one out, but Pustay reached first base without a throw and Collier scored the winning run from third.

"I was just trying to put the ball in play," Pustay said. "I did it (pinch hit) a lot last year, so I felt really comfortable. Bases loaded, no outs, I knew I just had to put the ball in play and give us a chance. It was great for me, the last couple of games I've been struggling."

The rest of the Lobos mobbed a relieved Harris after the game.

"He definitely needed it; he had a couple of rough days," Pustay said. "Today he played dog-sick. He gave 110 percent. His big thing is he needs to go home and rest."

All the extra-inning drama overshadowed another solid start from Walker. The right-hander allowed three runs, all back in the third inning, and ended up going 9.1 innings on the day. Walker has still not walked a batter all season.

"I'm happy with my performance today given that it wasn't my best day," Walker said, as he allowed 14 hits. "I didn't feel my best out there."

Birmingham said he wanted to give Walker a shot at the victory when the Lobos elected to send him back out in the 10th.

"He throws good enough and he still had the matchups," Birmingham said. "One more thing, he has a shot at winning the most wins (in UNM history). He asked us and we gave it to him."

Haggerty went 3-for-4 with three runs, a double, a triple and an RBI to lead UNM at the plate. Overall, Birmingham said he is not worried about sophomores like Haggerty or the freshmen, but it is instead the upperclassmen who are struggling with the bats right now.

"It's the weirdest stuff I've ever seen, it's like there's a curse on the team," Birmingham said.

The Lobos will hit the road to play Arizona State on Wednesday and then three games at Fresno State starting Friday. Their next home game is March 18 against Kansas.

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