ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Luis Gonzalez tossed seven strong innings in brutally tough pitching conditions while hitting a home run and driving in three runs to lead The University of New Mexico baseball team to an 11-6 victory over Air Force on a windy Sunday afternoon at Santa Ana Star Field to take the rubber match of the three-game set.
With the wind gusting toward 30 mph straight out of the ballpark and facing a Falcon squad that entered the series as the top hitting team in the nation, the left-hander Gonzalez kept Air Force off balance and surrendered four earned runs on 11 hits with six strikeouts and a walk to pick up his fourth win of the season.
Combine it with Gonzalez going 3-for-4 at the plate as the UNM (28-20-1 overall, 18-4-1 Mountain West) lead-off man had a home run, double, three RBI and three runs, and it was a huge afternoon for the Lobo junior.
“He was the player of the game, that’s for sure,” UNM coach Ray Birmingham said. “He was able to throw his curveball for a strike so that was big. (Air Force) wants to drive the ball the other way and jump on those early fastballs and Luis was able to keep them off balance.”
The Falcons (24-22, 11-15) took a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning when a Lobo error on what looked like a possible double play led to a three-run home run for Daniel Jones – part of a four-run frame to give Air Force the lead.
However, UNM answered in the fifth inning as freshman Robby Campillo led off the inning with his first career home run, Luis Gonzalez smacked an RBI single up the middle, Jack Zoellner walked with the bases loaded and Danny Collier and Hayden Schilling each hit RBI ground outs to give the Lobos a 7-5 lead.
UNM’s advantage grew to 9-5 on RBI doubles from Gonzalez and Collier (part of a big day for the junior) in the sixth before single runs in the seventh and eighth innings (along with an Air Force run in the seventh) made the final score 11-6.
Collier finished 3-for-5 with three doubles, two RBI and two runs (scoring both times on wild pitches by Air Force), Justin Watari had his third consecutive multi-hit game by going 2-for-3 with three runs and Carl Stajduhar went 2-for-4 with a run.
The win moves the Lobos’ magic number to clinch the Mountain West regular-season title and host the conference tournament to four (a combination of UNM wins or San Diego State losses) with six conference games remaining.
UNM travels to take on Fresno State starting Friday before ending the season at home against Nevada May 18-20. San Diego State travels to take on Air Force next week before ending the season at home against Fresno State.