It started ugly, but it's all about the finish, and in that regard the New Mexico baseball team looked good Friday night.
The Lobos rallied to defeat UC Riverside 11-9 at Isotopes Park, battling back from an early 8-3 deficit.
"We've been in this position before so many times, but now we're staying relaxed and we were able to come back," coach Ray Birmingham said.
UNM (5-6) won its third in a row, but it was far from easy.
UCR (7-6) led 9-8 in the sixth inning after Clayton Prestridge reached on an error by second baseman Jared Holley, advanced to second on Matt Andriese's single, to third on Phil Holinsworth's single and scored two batters later on Nick Vilter's sacrifice fly.
The Lobo rally came in the eighth, ignited by D.J. Peterson's line-drive, leadoff home run to left field, tying the game.
"Obviously I wasn't trying to do that, I was just trying to stay short, get the inning started with maybe a base hit," Peterson said. "He just left one out over the plate."
Mitch Garver followed with a single to left. He then took off for second on what seemed to be a hit-and-run, only Luke Campbell failed to hit. The throw from catcher Drake Zarate, which had Garver beat easily, bounced into center field, enabling Garver to round second and reach third. Garver had to leave the game after one of his quadriceps tightened up.
Campbell redeemed himself with a double down the left field line that easily scored pinch runner Logan Lippert to put UNM ahead for the first time at 10-9.
After Alex Real grounded out, Sam Haggerty ripped an RBI double down the left field line for an insurance run.
"Offensively we practice adjustments, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't," Birmingham said.
Josh Walker gave up a leadoff single to pinch hitter Devyn Bolasky in the ninth, but he retired the next three batters on a swinging strikeout, a groundout to second and a called strike three. It was his first save of the season for Walker and UNM as a team.
Gabe Aguilar (1-0) picked up the win in relief, his first victory since 2010. He did not allow a baserunner in 2.1 innings, striking out two batters.
"It feels pretty good, but it just feels pretty good that we were able to come back as a team," Aguilar said.
All told, the bullpen, a major problem earlier in the season, allowed just one run on five hits and one walk in 6.2 innings.
"I think we're just trying to be us, trying not to do too much on the mound, not to overthink things, just throw strikes and let the hitters get themselves out," Aguilar said of the bullpen's turnaround.
His coach agreed.
"Tonight our Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team had tough starting pitching and a good bullpen," Birmingham said. "Our bullpen saved the day."
Peterson finished the game 4-for-5, falling a triple shy of the cycle. Freshman Jared Holley was 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Hollinsworth went 4-for-5 with two RBI to lead UCR at the plate. Mark Garcia (2-2) took the loss in relief as he allowed the three runs in the eighth inning.
The Lobos and Highlanders will play a doubleheader Saturday starting at 2 p.m.