The New Mexico baseball team's on-field success the last three seasons translated into a major preseason accolade today.
Baseball America ranked the Lobos as the No. 21 team in the country in its top 25 poll.
UNM went 37-24 last year, winning the Mountain West Conference tournament and advancing to an NCAA regional for the third straight season.
"This is a big deal," coach Ray Birmingham said in a UNM press release. "It's a culmination of five years of hard work by so many people, so many kids, and a state believing in a program."
In a full scouting capsule available to subscribers, Baseball America said, "With perhaps the nation's most explosive offense and a pitching staff well stocked with power arms that just need to prove themselves, New Mexico's upside is significant."
Baseball America went on to say that if the Lobos get "hot at the right time," they can advance to the College World Series in Omaha for the first time in program history.
UNM has a solid core returning, led by junior third baseman D.J. Peterson (.419, 17 HR, 78 RBI last year), who was ranked as the No. 10 college draft prospect by Baseball America.
The rest of the Lobo lineup will include senior catcher Mitchell Garver (.377, 10 HR, 57 RBI), freshman second baseman Sam Haggerty, senior shortstop Alex Allbritton (.251, HR, 31 RBI), sophomore outfielder Ryan Padilla (.353, 5 HR, 49 RBI), senior outfielders Luke Campbell (DNP—injured) and Josh Melendez (.347, 3 HR, 44 RBI, 23 stolen bases) and junior outfielder-designated hitter John Pustay (.294, 3 HR, 20 RBI).
The pitching staff lost several key arms from last season including starters Austin House and Gera Sanchez. The top returning starter is junior Josh Walker (8-3, 4.19 ERA), while senior Sam Wolff (1-2, 5.52) is being counted on to rebound from a tough year. Junior college transfer Anthony Consiglio is expected to join them in the rotation. Senior Hobie McClain (2-1, 1.80, three saves) will lead the bullpen.
UNM will open its season at home on Feb. 15 against Oklahoma State.