March 20, 2012
New Mexico State 7, Arizona 4 (Box Score)
TUCSON, Ariz. - An uncharacteristically sloppy defensive effort in the eighth inning doomed the No. 5 Arizona baseball team as visiting New Mexico State scored the final four runs of the game en route to a 7-4 upset victory over the Wildcats on Tuesday night at Hi Corbett Field.
Arizona (16-5) held a 4-3 lead going to the seventh inning before New Mexico State (16-8) seized the momentum. The Aggies tied the game 4-4 in the inning and threatened to take the lead after loading the bases with two outs. But reliever Stephen Manthei induced an inning-ending double play to escape further trouble.
The Wildcats created their own trouble in the decisive eighth inning. Kurt Snowley singled off Manthei to open the inning, and reached second safely when shortstop Alex Mejia committed an error on a grounder off the bat of Cody Edwards.
Tanner Waite attempted to bunt the runners into scoring position, but first baseman Brandon Dixon elected to throw out Snowley heading to third. Dixon's throw was wild and rolled down the left field line where Johnny Field misplayed the ball and allowed Edwards to score and Waite to move into second base safely.
Manthei recorded strikeouts against the next two hitters, and after a two-out walk was relieved by Tyler Crawford, who retired the only batter he faced to end the inning. By then the damage was done and the Aggies had a 6-4 lead.
Robert Roher pitched the top of the eighth inning for the Aggies and stranded a pair of Wildcat runners. After the Aggies added an insurance run in the ninth, Roher worked the ninth and induced a game-ending double play off the bat of Johnny Field. Roher earned his first save of the season.
The Wildcats found success early in the game off Aggies' starter Casey Collins, who gave up four runs - three earned - and scattered eight hits. But UA squandered some opportunities to do further damage, hitting just 3-for-15 in the game with runners in scoring position.
Reliever Evan Mott was strong for the Aggies. He took over in the sixth inning and allowed just one base hit in two innings of work. He improved his record to 1-2 with the win out of the bullpen.
Arizona starter Tyler Hale tossed five innings and gave up three runs - two earned - on six hits. He matched his career high with seven strikeouts and had three walks, but did not factor into the decision. Manthei was charged with the loss despite not allowing an earned run.
New Mexico State was without its head coach, Rocky Ward, and his father, assistant coach Gary Ward. Both were tending to a family emergency, and Aggies' assistant coach Mike Evans served as the acting head coach. Evans was ejected in the bottom of the fifth inning for arguing a balk called on Collins that allowed Arizona to break a 3-3 tie and push across the go-ahead run.
The two teams will conclude the two-game, mid-week series on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Hi Corbett Field. The Wildcats are slated to throw freshman right-hander Lucas Long against the Aggie left-hander Ryan Beck.