Thursday, April 21, 2016

Texas Tech Red Raiders 5 at New Mexico Lobos 6 (10, NCAA Baseball) - April 20, 2016

When I first planned this trip, I thought I would stay in El Paso for the morning Chihuahuas game and then make the four-hour drive to Albuquerque for the night game at Isotopes Park. But then I checked the New Mexico Lobos baseball schedule and found that they had an afternoon game against #11 Texas Tech. This allowed me to escape El Paso early and complete the drive before lunch. I arrived around noon and made my way to Loyola's Family Restaurant, famous for its appearances on Better Call Saul, for a quick lunch.

Suitably sated, I headed over to Santa Ana Star Field, where the Lobos play. They actually used Isotopes Park from the time it opened in 2003, but returned to their campus home after renovations were completed midway through the 2013 season. The two parks are less than half a mile apart, in fact the parking lot next to the ballpark is used for Isotopes games. Originally known as Lobo Field, the naming rights were sold to Santa Ana Star Casino late last year.

For Lobos games, the lot is free and tickets are just $5, cash only. For an extra $5 you can relax in a shaded tent along third base (below), but most fans choose to sit in the bleachers behind home plate.

The view of the Sandia Mountains is quite nice here. You can also see the Lobos football stadium just beyond the center field fence below.

There is a single concession stand selling overpriced food and beverages (a litre of water is $6.50!) and nothing else to note, as is common at NCAA baseball venues. There is no shade in the bleachers except for the first couple of rows in front of the press box, so get there early if you want to avoid baking on the metal bleachers, and bring plenty of sunscreen. The press box is so small that visiting radio broadcasters are forced to work in the stands, so if you don't know much about the players, try sitting close to them as they provide a lot of useful information.

Texas Tech (30-9, 1st in the Big 12) came in on a 10-game winning streak and had won the opener the night before, while New Mexico was 26-12 and leading the Mountain West. The game featured 13 total pitchers for each side, not unusual for these midweek encounters when teams utilize their less capable fourth and fifth starters. With all the pitching changes, the game dragged on and on; TTU used three relievers in the fifth inning to maintain a 5-3 lead. The fourth reliever, Ryan Moseley, who used to be a Friday starter, kept the lead but was lifted after giving up an unearned run in the 8th. After TTU went quietly in the 9th, Hayden Howard came in to preserve the win, but Chris DeVito doubled with one out and then Michael Eaton laced a two-out double down the right field line to tie the game and send it to extras. The Red Raiders loaded the bases in the tenth but Stephen Smith popped out to end the threat. In the bottom half, Andre Vigil singled with one out. Dalton Bowers came up and executed the hit and run perfectly. As Vigil approached third, the right fielder slipped and Vigil was waved home. The throw from the cutoff man arrived just as Vigil slid home with the winning run as New Mexico snapped the Tech winning streak with the exciting 6-5 victory.

The Lobos celebrate above with the final score in the background. The game ended at 4:40, leaving plenty of time to make it over to Isotopes Park for the second half of the doubleheader, won 4-1 by visiting Reno.

Next Up

I'm returning to Texas next week to complete the AA Texas League plus Round Rock in the PCL. The week after, I will be seeing the Jays in San Francisco and Arlington. As always, check back for recaps.



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