It was not pretty, but it was a win. At least that was what the New Mexico baseball team had to think after a 10-6 victory on Friday over “host” Air Force at Lobo Field.
A seven-run first inning, fueled by three Falcons errors, helped the Lobos (4-1, 1-0 Mountain West) overcome plenty of their own mistakes. UNM did not hit or pitch particularly well.
“I think you could see (the struggles) from both teams,” said junior second baseman Sam Haggerty. “Just some funky things that happen a lot in the first inning. Everyone (will) get through that.”
Air Force (0-5, 0-1) pulled within 7-5 in the sixth inning, only to see the Lobos strike back quickly. Haggerty led off the seventh with a home run to right field.
“It was pretty surreal; it was my first home run at Lobo Field,” Haggerty said. “Going up to the plate, (Falcons starter) Griffin Jax had been working me in all night so I built an approach (where) I took a couple inches back off the plate. He threw the first one in and I stayed where I was at. Then the next one came in as well and I got my hands extended and the rest was history.”
UNM tacked on two more runs in the eighth and survived a minor threat in the ninth. Victor Sanchez, who got the Lobos out of a two-on, no-outs jam in the seventh, gave up back-to-back hits to start the ninth.
Jake Cole came on in relief and gave up a sacrifice fly. Tyler Jones then grounded into a game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
“We used Victor and Jake today and we were hoping we didn’t have to,” UNM coach Ray Birmingham said. “We had to, so that’s the part that burns me.”
Lobos starter Toller Boardman (2-0) got the win despite a mostly disappointing outing. He was charged with five runs, four earned, on 12 hits in 5.2 innings.
Offensively, UNM did not really do much, either. Haggerty and Aaron Siple both went 2-for-5, the only Lobos with multiple hits.
“Swinging the bat is going to take some time,” Birmingham said. “(But) we can’t struggle pitching-wise to Air Force. Toller was not very good today.”
The first inning ended up being decisive. Danny Collier and Haggerty reached on back-to-back throwing errors to start the frame.
A passed ball ended up scoring Collier to put UNM on the board. After Chris DeVito walked, Carl Stajduhar grounded an RBI single up the middle.
Luis Gonzalez and Dalton Bowers drew consecutive walks, with Bowers’ walk driving in DeVito as the bases were loaded. Jared Holley and Cory Voss followed with RBI singles.
Siple and Collier then had RBI groundouts before Haggerty finally lined out to end the inning. It marked the first time the Lobos ever got to Jax (0-2), who gave up just one run in 14 innings against them last season, only to give up eight runs — four earned — in seven innings Friday.
“The great thing today is we beat Griffin Jax,” Birmingham said. “And that’s the biggest thing, so I want to focus on that. That guy is really good. We were very patient at the plate in the first inning.”
Air Force played as the home team as the series was originally scheduled for Colorado Springs this weekend, but had to be moved to Albuquerque due to a pending winter storm. The Lobos and Falcons will continue the series Saturday and Sunday at noon both days.