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UNM upsets Nevada at MW tournament

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By The Staff

The University of New Mexico baseball team was not happy with the way the Nevada Wolf Pack celebrated their Mountain West regular-season title on Lobo Field a few weeks ago. The Lobos wanted a chance for revenge with Nevada in the conference tournament.
They got Nevada.
They routed Nevada.
The Lobos (31-25) used the 10-run rule for the second time in as many games in the Mountain West Tournament as they defeated the host and top-seeded Wolf Pack 14-4 in seven innings on a rainy night. It was the most runs scored against Nevada at home all season.
“We’re a young team with lots of injuries and lots of things to deal with, but these guys are battling,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said.
Lane Milligan drove in four runs for the second consecutive game, while three Lobos recorded three hits. Every UNM starter had at least one, and all nine reached base safely at least twice. The offense backed a tremendous start by Toller Boardman, who moved to 9-3 on the season by pitching 6.2 innings and falling just one batter short of a complete game.
It only took the Lobos just four pitches to take a 1-0 lead. Sam Haggerty smacked a 1-0 pitched past Nevada’s third baseman for a double, and Milligan knocked an 0-1 pitch over the first-base bag for another double that brought in Haggerty.
Nevada (41-14) tied the game in the bottom of the second, but the Lobos fought back for single runs in the third and fourth. Haggerty led off the third with his second double of the game, moved to third on a flyout by Milligan and scored on a groundout by Cory Voss. Reece Weber then got the fourth inning started with his first career triple, and Aaron Siple drove him home with a sacrifice fly to center.
The bottom of the inning perhaps changed the complexion of the game as Nevada threatened to regain the momentum with a leadoff single. Boardman then fell behind the next batter 3-0. However, after a brief visit from shortstop and co-captain Jared Holley, he got a strike. Then on the 3-1 pitch Nevada tried a hit-and-run. The batter swung through it, though, and the runner was tagged out in a rundown between first and second. Boardman then got a strikeout and a flyout to end the frame.
That proved enormous because the Lobos struck for five runs in each of the next two innings to take a 13-1 lead and demoralize Nevada. Everything seemed to be going the Lobos’ way. A perfect example came when Jack Zoellner scored all the way from second base on a bunt single by Siple. Zoellner continued his hot play with a 3-for-5 performance with three runs scored, while Siple finished 2-for-4.
“We’ve been swinging it well since we got here, and it’s something we’re going to need to continue to do,” said Haggerty, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two walks and three runs scored. “Guys are buying in and hitting one after another. I do believe hitting is contagious, and we’ve shown that the last two days.”
In the bottom of the sixth the Wolf Pack did their best to avoid the so-called mercy rule, but the Lobos stood tall. A single and double put two men in scoring position with no outs. A fly ball to Weber in left seemed like a sure sacrifice fly, but his throw home was perfect and in time to nail the runner. The Wolf Pack then loaded the bases, but Boardman struck out their big slugger Austin Byler to end the frame.
Boardman went 6.2 innings and scattered 11 hits. He struck out six while walking just two, and, perhaps most importantly, helped save UNM’s bullpen for the second straight game after Tyler Stevens threw a seven-inning complete game on Wednesday. Hayden Schilling came in and got the final out.
“Toller has been the consistent glue on this team,” Birmingham said. “He’s the guy that hasn’t been hurt. We’ve lost our Saturday starter and Sunday starter and Tuesday starter. We’ve rebounded from it, and I hope it continues.”
The Lobos will now face Fresno State in the winner’s bracket at 8 p.m. MT Friday. The Bulldogs defeated No. 2 seed San Diego State 15-7 earlier Thursday. The game will be streamed on the Mountain West Network, and ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM will carry the game live.
“We’re excited to play (Fresno State),” Birmingham said, “but it’s not about them; it’s about us. It’s about us playing the game right.”