The pitching staff is the mystery right now as the Lobos try to work in some newcomers and expand the role of several returning arms.
Junior right-hander Josh Walker (8-3, 4.19 ERA) is the lone returnee from last year's weekend rotation. Senior Sam Wolff (1-2, 5.52) and junior-college transfers Anthony Consiglio and A.J. Carman are also in the starting mix.
"As far as the pitchers go, they've improved so much with the help of coach (Dan) Spencer," Garver said, referring to the Lobos' new pitching coach. "At the beginning of the fall we were kind of knocking them around the park a little bit. But now if you come out here you'll see everyday there's not going to be four or five runs (allowed) in the first inning."
Senior Hobie McClain (2-1, 1.80, 3 saves) is the projected closer. Another JC transfer, right-hander Tyler Spencer, should also be a weapon late in games.
"The JC pitchers are outstanding," Birmingham said. "Spencer is going to be in the back of the bullpen. Tyler has a big-time arm, 95 (mph) with sink and a slider. Consiglio and Carman are big-time pitchers. (Kevin) Baumgartner is turning into a big-time pitcher. They're getting closer and closer."
As for sleepers, Birmingham mentioned sophomore Alex Estrella, who had a 2.89 ERA in six games.
"The kid was 82-83 last year, he's touching 90-91," Birmingham said. "Velocity's not important. Location of three pitches and command of three pitches is."
The schedule will be tough for UNM from the outset. Following the three-game series with Oklahoma State, the Lobos will travel to Corpus Christi for a tournament featuring Iowa, Oklahoma and host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Feb. 22-24. UNM will then play three games at Nebraska March 1-3 before returning home for five games, two versus LaSalle March 5-6 and three versus UC Riverside March 8-10.
All but one of the Lobos' home series will be held at Isotopes Park. The May 3-5 series versus Air Force will be held at Lobo Field, which has a new synthetic field but is still undergoing construction on the grandstands.
"We inherited a bad high school field, now we've got the makings and the beginnings of an outstanding baseball stadium that will hopefully be at least equal to all the people we're beating," Birmingham said.