Cue up the "there can be only one!" jokes, the UC Riverside Highlanders are coming to town.
Just be careful not to anger them too much, or else something like this might happen.
UC Riverside will take on the New Mexico baseball team in a four-game series starting Friday night at 6 p.m. at Isotopes Park. The two teams will play four games in three days, with a Saturday doubleheader on tap.
"We need these four games to continue to work on getting better," UNM coach Ray Birmingham said.
All 1980s references to Highlander and its many sequels aside, these Highlanders (7-5) are off to a solid start this season. They were just 22-32 last season and 9-15 in the Big West.
Junior left-hander Dylan Stuart went 7-7 with an ERA of 4.00 in 15 starts last year. He inherited the role of staff ace after Eddie Orozco was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. Stuart has gone 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA in three starts so far and will get the ball on Friday.
UNM (4-6), which swept a two-game set from La Salle this week to snap a four-game losing streak, will counter with junior right-hander A.J. Carman (1-0, 0.60).
"Carman's got a (0.60) ERA, and when was the last time a Lobo had a (0.60) ERA after three starts?" Birmingham said with a laugh.
The rest of UC Riverside's rotation is not as impressive as Stuart. Jacob Smigelski, a junior-college transfer, has no decisions and a 4.96 ERA in three starts and will the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.
Junior lefty Ben Doucette, a reliever last year, has moved into the rotation (1-1, 5.87) and will start the second game. Senior right-hander Mitch Patito (0-0, 4.61) gets the nod in Sunday's 1 p.m. series finale.
The Lobos will counter with junior Kevin Baumgartner (0-1, 3.75) on Saturday, but the starter for game two has not been announced. Senior Sam Wolff (1-1, 3.52) will stay in his Sunday slot.
It might not be a surprise if one of the UNM freshmen sneaks into that starting spot ahead of the many juniors on the roster.
"The older guys that we're counting on, they've got to step it up," Birmingham said. "These young guys are getting after it. The freshmen are giving me a lot of hope."
Senior first baseman Clayton Prestridge (.408, 11 RBI) has been the Highlanders' top hitter so far. Junior designated hitter Kyle Boudreau (.357, HR, 9 RBI) is also off to a good start, but the rest of the lineup has no one hitting higher than .273.
In contrast, every member of the projected Lobo lineup is hitting .273 or better, led by junior third baseman D.J. Peterson (.395, 4 HR, 16 RBI), senior left fielder Luke Campbell (.452, HR, 12 RBI) and senior catcher Mitch Garver (.429, 10 RBI).
"It'll be a tough battle, we're thinking," shortstop Alex Allbritton said. "I think we have a chance to win some more games this weekend, that's for sure. We just need to play consistent baseball, good defense behind our pitchers. We're pretty excited to play these guys. We don't know much about them, but it'll be a fun weekend."