Defense had quietly been one of the strengths of the New Mexico baseball team’s season.
It failed the Lobos at the worst time Friday night in Fullerton, Calif., as UNM lost 4-3 to Arizona State in the opening game of the NCAA Regional.
The Lobos (37-21) will face either Columbia or Cal State Fullerton in a loser’s bracket game Saturday at 5 p.m. Another loss and UNM will be eliminated.
Three errors led to three of Arizona State’s runs being unearned. The costliest was a throwing error by freshman shortstop Jared Holley in the fifth inning that enabled Michael Benjamin to reach base safely.
James McDonald then blasted a line-drive, two-run homer over the right field wall to give the Sun Devils (36-20-1) a 4-2 lead.
The Lobos got a run back on Mitch Garver’s solo home run to left field in the eighth inning. With two outs, Josh Melendez was then hit by a pitch and John Pustay walked.
ASU brought in closer Ryan Burr, who got a called strike three on Alex Allbritton to end the eighth.
In the ninth, Burr walked Holley to start the inning but things quickly went south for UNM. Chase Harris’ bunt attempt was popped up for the first out. Sam Haggerty then lined out to left field. First-team All-American D.J. Peterson was the Lobos’ last hope, but he swung at ball three far off the plate and ended up grounding out to Burr, who flipped to first base for the game-ending out.
The Lobos had jumped ahead in the first inning on Garver’s one-out RBI single to left field. In the bottom of the frame Kasey Coffman walked and went all the way to third base on a throwing error by starting pitcher Josh Walker. McDonald then drove him in on a sacrifice fly to left field.
In the third inning, the Sun Devils went ahead as Coffman doubled down the left field line with two outs and then scored when Benjamin’s grounder to shortstop was mishandled by Holley for an error.
UNM came back to tie the game on Peterson’s sac-fly in the fifth that scored Harris.
All told the Lobo bats were held in check by Trevor Williams (6-6) and Burr. UNM mustered just seven singles and Garver’s solo homer while leaving nine men on base.
Walker (11-1) was the tough-luck loser, allowing just one earned run over 7.1 innings. He gave up four hits and four walks while striking out three batters.
Senior Sam Wolff (7-3) will start Saturday’s elimination game.