Fullerton Regional: #3 New Mexico

Fullerton Regional: #3 New Mexico

Ray Birmingham arrived in Albuquerque for the 2008 season after a long and successful career coaching at the JC level and immediately changed the culture of the program and had New Mexico in a regional in his third season in 2010, when they played at Fullerton and beat Stanford in their first regional game since 1962 before losing their next two games to Minnesota and Fullerton.

#3 Seed – New Mexico Lobos

 

Overall Record – 37-20

Conference Record – 25-5 (1st place) in the Mountain West Conference

How they qualified for a regional – At-large

Last regional appearance – 2012.  1-2 at UCLA regional.  Win against San Diego, losses to UCLA and Creighton

RPI/ISR – 51/38 (Fullerton opponent ISR comparison – UCSB 31, Texas A&M 43)

SOS – 115 (RPI)/85 (ISR)

Record vs. tournament field – 7-7.  Non-conference – 1-2 vs. Oklahoma State, 0-1 at Arizona State, 1-1 at Arkansas.  Conference – 5-3 vs. San Diego State.

Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 1-5/14-11

 

Season Summary

The Lobos had a rebuilding year in 2011 when they won only sixteen regular season games but got hot in the MWC tournament and upset heavily favored TCU twice to win the conference's automatic bid and had Arizona State on the ropes in the opening game of the regional in Tempe before the Sun Devils came back late to win and they lost their next game to Arkansas.  New Mexico was much better in 2012 and shared the regular season championship with TCU and rolled to the MWC tournament title by outscoring their three opponents 40-5 and defeated San Diego in their opening game at the UCLA regional before losing to UCLA and Creighton to be eliminated.

 

New Mexico expected to have a strong team this season because they were returning their four best hitters from 2012, including All-American D.J. Peterson, and were nationally ranked in some of the pre-season polls despite losing two of their best starting pitchers.  The Lobos got off to a slow start at 2-6 after losing their opening series at home to Oklahoma State, losing two out of three games in a tournament at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and losing both games at Nebraska and split four games against UC Riverside in their last non-conference series.  New Mexico was only 6-9 going into their MWC schedule when they started playing much better and won two out of three games in each of their first four series, swept their next four series, won two out of three at Fresno State and swept their series at San Diego State to end the regular season on an 18-2 roll with a 25-5 conference record to win the regular season title by seven games.  The Lobos won their first two games in the MWC tournament against Nevada and UNLV before running out of pitching and losing twice to San Diego State 8-7 and 9-4 as the Aztecs won the tournament and the conference's automatic bid. 

 

Offense

 

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 133 (increases offense by 33%).  Albuquerque is a mile above sea level and New Mexico doesn't use a humidor like the Colorado Rockies do to keep the ball from flying out of the yard. 
  • Batting Average – .336 (NCAA ranking – 1st, conference ranking 1st); .354 in conf. games (1st).
  • Scoring – 479 (1, 1), 8.4 runs per game; 279 (1st), 9.3 runs per game in conf. games.
  • Home Runs – 52 (17, 1); 33 in conf. games (1st).
  • Slugging Percentage – .510 (2, 1); .560 in conf. games (1st).
  • On Base Percentage – .424 (1, 1); .436 in conf. games (1st).
  • Walks – 282 (11, 1), 4.9 per game; 147 (1st), 4.9 per game in conf. games.
  • HBP's – 61 (113, 4); 26 in conf. games (5th).
  • Stolen Bases – 71-98 (105, 2); 30-49 in conf. games (3rd). 
  • Sac Bunts – 49 (88, 3); 30 in conf. games (3rd).
  • Strikeouts – 346 (DNR, 6), 6.1 per game; 167 (6th), 5.6 per game in conf. games.

 

New Mexico had the best offense in the country this season and led the nation in scoring, batting, and on base percentage and was second in slugging.  Playing at elevation and in a conference where four of the six ballparks significantly inflate offense has helped them to put up those types of lofty numbers but that type of production isn't a fluke.  The Lobos have been held to four runs or less only thirteen times this season.  New Mexico has a sound hitting philosophy where they are very patient and wait for their pitch and when they get it they usually don't miss it because they are eleventh in the country in walks but had the fewest strikeouts in their conference.  New Mexico will also play some little ball with five players having six or more SAC bunts and four players having at least eight stolen bases. 

 

Batting Order

 

RF – JC transfer #12 Chase Harris (RH – .328/.380/.470, 5-48-19) came into the program this season and has literally hit the ground running and is second in the MWC in stolen bases and is also among the conference leaders in R, H, 2B, HR and RBI.  He is an aggressive hitter who doesn't walk much with a 16/35 BB/K but makes up for it with the power that he provides as a leadoff hitter.  Harris is a good bunter and will also try to use his speed to bunt for hits and has six SAC bunts.

 

2B – FR #5 Sam Haggerty (Both – .280/.418/.379, 1-32-4) was the Co-FR of the Year in the MWC and 2nd team all-conference as an all-around solid player offensively and defensively.  He does an excellent job of getting on base and was second in the MWC in runs.  Haggerty will work counts and see lots of pitches, drawing lots of walks as the leader in the conference in that area and also striking out quite a bit with a 47/45 BB/K ratio.  He is an excellent bunter and led the MWC with fifteen SAC bunts so he will often be asked to bunt runners over.

 

1B – JR #33 DJ Peterson (RH – .411/.525/.823, 18-70-5) has been one of the best hitters in the country over the last two seasons and also hit over .400 in 2012 with 17 HR and 78 RBI.  He is in the top ten nationally in AVG, R, 2B, HR, RBI, SLG and OBP, will be one of the finalists for the Golden Spikes award for the national player of the year and will be a first round pick in the MLB draft next week.  Peterson has excellent plate discipline for a power hitter with a 46/32 BB/K ratio and teams have showed him a great deal of respect by intentionally walking him sixteen times instead of letting him beat them.

 

C – SR #10 Mitch Garver (RH – .387/.455/.580, 5-65-12) is a three year starter and the leader of the team who has done an excellent job of providing protection in the lineup for Peterson and was Co-MVP of the MWC with him.  Garver led the conference in hits, was second in the MWC in AVG and RBI and was also among the leaders in the conference in R, 2B, 3B, HR, SLG and OBP.  He is a versatile player with good speed for a catcher and was also in the top ten in the MWC in SB's.  Garver has good plate discipline and had a solid 27/33 BB/K ratio.  He is a semi-finalist for the Johnny Bench Award for the national catcher of the year and the MLB scouts have also noticed his ability and he will be drafted in the 7th-10th rounds next week as a good SR signing.

 

DH – Soph #3 Alex Real (RH – .320/.405/.524, 8-36-2) only hit .271 as a FR but has stepped up his game this season and was among the MWC leaders in HR's and SLG as a power threat in the middle of the lineup.  Real didn't hit much in non-conference games but had a strong conference season when he hit .349 with 6 HR's and a .624 SLG% and was second team All-MWC.  He will see lots of pitches and also swing at lots of pitches and had a 27/40 BB/K ratio.  Soph #34 Ryan Padilla (LH – .270/.396/.443, 3-18-0) hit .353 as a FR but hasn't hit as well this season and has become the fourth OF and part-time DH and would be the most likely batter called upon to pinch-hit late in a game.

 

CF – SR #24 Josh Melendez (RH – .335/.434/.491, 3-41-13) came into the program as a JC transfer in 2012 and had an immediate impact, hitting .349, and has continued to hit this season and was among the conference leaders in R, H, 2B, 3B, RBI and OBP and was 1st team All-MWC.  He is another patient hitter who had a strong 36/34 BB/K ratio and was third in the conference in walks.  Melendez also has good speed and was among the MWC leaders in SB's and will sometimes try to drop a bunt down for a hit and has six SAC bunts.

 

LF – SR #18 Luke Campbell (RH – .382/.447/.602, 7-49-8) hit .301 and was third on the team in AVG as a JC transfer in 2011 but had to redshirt last year when he was injured a week before the season started.  He has been busy making up for lost time and was 2nd team All-MWC after finishing among the conference leaders in AVG, R, H, 2B, HR, RBI and SLG.  Campbell doesn't walk much but doesn't strike out much either with a solid 18/20 BB/K ratio.

 

3B – SR #4 Alex Albritton (RH – .321/.353/.418, 2-38-3) is one of the team leaders with Garver as a four year starter who has played all over the infield during his career.  He didn't hit much in his first three years with a .250 AVG but has had a good SR season that was recognized by the conference coaches who voted him first team All-MWC.  He has below average plate discipline with an 11/35 BB/K ratio.  Albritton is a good bunter with 23 SAC bunts over the last three seasons, including seven this year.

 

SS – FR #6 Jared Holley (RH – .280/.385/.320, 0-18-3) is a little guy who is about the same size as Fullerton's Richy Pedroza and has the same scrappy approach to playing the game.  He doesn't have much power with only six extra base hits (all 2B's) and doesn't walk much but does a good job of making contact and has a 13/22 BB/K ratio.  Holley is an excellent bunter and was third in the MWC with twelve SAC bunts.

 

Defense

 

  • ·       Fielding – .969 (113, 2) – 70 errors, 48 unearned runs.  .974 (2nd) with 31 errors in conf. games.  New Mexico is a decent fielding team that did a better job during conference play.  Peterson and Albritton are solid on the corners and have been used to playing more challenging positions earlier in their careers.  Haggerty and Holley have good range up the middle and were second and third in the MWC in assists but they are FR and have combined to make 26 errors.  Campbell, Melendez and Harris have good range because OF's need to with the way the ball flies all over the park at New Mexico.  The pitchers have been their own worst enemies because they have made sixteen errors.

  • ·       Stolen Base Attempts – 58-81 (DNR, 4).  Garver has a solid arm and runners are 47-64 on stolen base attempts against him.

  • ·       WP's/PB's Allowed – 76 (DNR, 6).  Garver does not do a good job of blocking pitches and New Mexico allowed the most WP's/PB's in the MWC.

Pitching

 

Pitchers don't have an easy go of it trying to get hitters out in the launching pad at New Mexico but every season there are a few pitchers for the Lobos who put up solid numbers while the rest of the staff struggles and this year is no different.  New Mexico has only had one reliable starter for most of the year but had an excellent trio of relievers who were able to shorten games while the offense bashed their way to wins until one of those relievers was moved into the rotation three weeks ago and became another viable starter.

 

  • ERA – 5.03 (221/4); 4.65 in conference (2nd). 
  • AVG – .284 (196/3); .284 in conference (3rd). 
  • HR – 36 (DNR/6); 14 in conference (1st). 
  • SLG – .404 (DNR/4); .390 in conference (3rd).  
  • Walks – 223 (188/4), 3.9 BB's/9 IP; 102 (3rd) in conference, 3.4 BB's/9 IP. 
  • HBP – 66 (DNR/3); 43 in conference (1st). 
  • OBP – .370 (DNR/4); .369 in conference (3rd). 
  • Strikeouts – 354 (174/5), 6.2 K/9 IP; 158 in conference (6th), 5.3 K/9 IP. 

 

Starters

 

JR #37 Josh Walker (RHP – 11-0, 3.91 ERA, 7 saves, 28 apps, 3 GS, 1 CG, 71 IP, 72 H, 18 BB, 52 K, .268 AVG, 4 HR, 5 HBP, 1 WP, 2-3 SB) is in the top ten nationally in wins despite not starting a game until three weeks ago and ended up finishing third in the MWC in appearances and saves.  Walker has been effective all season with a 3.05 ERA except for one disastrous outing against San Diego State when he allowed seven runs to inflate his ERA by almost a run.  He was moved into the rotation three weeks ago as New Mexico attempted to find anybody to get outs as a weekend starter and he has been solid with a 3-0 record and a 2.38 ERA in his three starts, throwing a shutout at Fresno State, allowing three runs in five innings at San Diego State and allowing three runs in 8 2/3 IP against Nevada in the MWC tournament.  Walker throws from a low 3/4 arm slot that makes it tough on hitters to pick up the ball and has an upper 80's fastball and a slider.  He does a very good job of holding runners.

 

SR #7 Sam Wolff (RHP – 7-3, 3.05 ERA, 15 GS, 86 IP, 78 H, 36 BB, 78 K, .244 AVG, 5 HR, 7 HBP, 9 WP, 14-22 SB) has been the one constant in the weekend rotation, has had an excellent SR season and was voted first team All-MWC after finishing among the conference leaders in W's, ERA, IP, K's and AVG.  He was especially tough in MWC games, where he went 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA, and has allowed three runs or less in each of his last ten starts including four straight starts in which he only allowed one run.  Wolff has been tough to hit and has only given up fifteen hits in his last 33 IP over his last five starts.  He wasn't striking out many hitters earlier in the season but has been averaging a strikeout per inning over his last four starts.  Wolff isn't a big guy but throws hard with a fastball that sits in the 93-95 range along with a solid changeup and breaking ball but sometimes runs into control issues and averages about three walks allowed per game.  He doesn't do a good job of holding runners so that is something to keep an eye on.  Wolff is expected to drafted in the 8th-10th round next week as a good SR signing.

 

FR #20 Drew Bridges (RHP – 3-1, 4.46 ERA, 11 apps, 9 GS, 42 IP, 37 H, 18 BB, 21 K, .247 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 4 WP, 2-3 SB) would be one of the options to start a third game this weekend.  He is a tall guy with some upside but has been inconsistent and hasn't thrown more than five innings in a start since his best outing of the season when he allowed no runs in 5 1/3 IP at Arkansas.  Bridges was taken out last Saturday after allowing two runs on five hits in three innings to San Diego State in the MWC tournament.  He has struggled with his control and doesn't have a swing miss pitch to put hitters away.

 

JC transfer #28 A.J. Carman (RHP – 1-1, 6.05 ERA, 14 GS, 58 IP, 70 H, 28 BB, 24 K, .307 AVG, 3 HR, 6 HBP, 5 WP, 10-15 SB) would be the other option to make a start this weekend but would be on a very short leash because he hasn't gotten out of the fourth inning in any of his last four starts.  He isn't a hard thrower and doesn't have good control, which results in him putting too many runners on base by walks and guys hitting the ball around the yard against him.

  

Relievers

  

New Mexico had three excellent options to go to when Walker was the closer but they had to move somebody into the rotation to give stabilize things.  They still have a good RHP/LHP combo in the bullpen in the set-up and closer roles but things thin out in a hurry after that.

 

SR #2 Gabe Aguilar (LHP – 5-2, 2.55 ERA, 3 saves, 27 apps, 35 IP, 29 H, 9 BB, 37 K, .232 AVG, 2 HR, 6 HBP, 4 WP, 5-5 SB) inherited the closer's role from Walker and has had an excellent season after only throwing five innings in 2012 and was first team All-MWC.  He has a funky sidearm motion that is especially tough on LH hitters that has allowed him to strike out a batter per inning despite not being a hard thrower.  New Mexico has gone to Aguilar often this season and he was fourth in the conference in appearances.

 

SR #29 Hobie McClain (RHP – 3-1, 4.44 ERA, 1 save, 30 apps, 47 IP, 49 H, 19 BB, 33 K, .274 AVG, 2 HR, 12 HBP, 4 WP, 2-2 SB) also throws from a sidearm slot that makes it tough on RH hitters but LH hitters have hit well against him.  He has control issues, averaging about 3 1/2 walks per 9 IP, and was among the MWC leaders in HBP's.  McClain has also taken the ball often and was second in the conference in appearances.

 

Other relievers

 

JC transfer #11 Jonathan Cuellar (RHP – 2-1, 5.87 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 2 GS, 38 IP, 50 H, 14 BB, 19 K, .323 AVG, 3 HR, 6 HBP, 5 WP, 6-9 SB)

 

JR #38 Jake McCasland (RHP – 1-1, 5.09 ERA, 1 save, 16 apps, 18 IP, 19 H, 8 BB, 16 K, .279 AVG, 0 HR, 4 HBP, 6 WP, 2-3 SB)

 

JR #58 Josh McAlister (RHP – 0-1, 1.29 ERA, 11 apps, 14 IP, 11 H, 7 BB, 9 K, .220 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB)

 

Soph #26 Alex Estrella (LHP – 0-1, 6.68 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 5 GS, 32 IP, 41 H, 12 BB, 21 K, .311 AVG, 5 HR, 1 HBP, 6 WP, 0-0 SB)

 

JC transfer #19 Kevin Baumgartner (LHP – 2-5, 8.35 ERA, 12 apps, 6 GS, 32 IP, 47 H, 10 BB, 22 K, .333 AVG, 5 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 10-11 SB)

 

SR #41 Will Mathis (LHP – 0-4, 8.05 ERA, 21 apps, 19 IP, 32 H, 11 BB, 15 K, .376 AVG, 2 HR, 4 HBP, 6 WP, 1-2 SB)

 

Outlook

 

New Mexico didn't start the season off well, struggling with some good opponents (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Nebraska) and went 1-5 against those teams and even split four games at home with Riverside, one of bottom three teams in the Big West conference.  The light bulb went on for the Lobos once they got into conference play and they have been playing well since then until getting upset twice by San Diego State last weekend.  The question for New Mexico is going to be which team shows up, the one that struggled against better competition in non-conference games or the one that usually drilled lesser opponents in the MWC but they will not be psyched out by playing on the big stage because this is the fourth straight season that they have played in a regional.  Moving Walker into the rotation gives the Lobos a chance to put together solid starts in the first two games and that could potentially make them one of the final two teams left standing this weekend but the depth in the rotation drops off of the cliff after that.  New Mexico would probably have to bash their way to wins on Sunday and potentially Monday but Fullerton and ASU figure to have enough offense and too much pitching depth, especially Fullerton, for the Lobos to advance out of the regional and into a super regional next weekend.

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