Saturday, May 18, 2013

New Mexico completes sweep of Aztecs

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — No. 16-ranked New Mexico completed a three-game Mountain West Conference sweep of San Diego State with an 11-7 win Saturday afternoon in a game that included a little controversy at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

A collision at home plate in the seventh inning involving SDSU's John Spirk and New Mexico catcher Alex Real briefly led to Spirk's ejection — a decision that was later overturned — and also led to the ejection of SDSU head coach Tony Gwynn when he came out to argue the play with home plate umpire Dominic Giarratano.

The Aztecs scored the go-ahead run, which made it 7-6, on perhaps the most controversial play of the season. Spirk came home on Justin Gheorghe's one-out single to right field. The throw home short-hopped past Real, who moved into the third-base line while trying to field the ball. Spirk collided with Real a few feet up the line before then touching the plate.

Giarratano called Spirk out and ejected him for colliding with the catcher, believing Spirk had thrown an elbow on the play (NCAA rules require players to avoid contact at all costs). The three umpires engaged in a lengthy discussion moments later to discuss the play and the decision to eject Spirk was reversed as it was decided that he put his arms up to protect himself during the collision.

Gwynn, who had come out to argue Spirk being called out, was ejected by Giarratano amid the confusion surrounding the play. It was the third ejection in Gwynn's 11 seasons as head coach.

The momentum for SDSU (15-15, 26-28) was short-lived as the Lobos (25-5, 28-18) regained the lead with three runs in the eighth inning and added two more in the ninth in a game that closed out the regular season for both teams.

New Mexico took control early, building a 5-1 lead through three and a half innings. But the Aztecs rallied for four runs in the fourth to make it 5-5. Shortstop Evan Potter's two-out, bases-loaded double brought home three of the runs. Potter then scored on Jake Romanski's single.

After New Mexico regained the lead with a run in the fifth, the Aztecs tied it again 6-6 in their half of the inning. Potter took one for the team, getting hit by a pitch from the Lobos' Hobie McClain to force home the run. Potter, who has made a name for himself with outstanding defense, finished the game with a career-high four RBI.

The Aztecs now shift their focus to the MWC Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Fresno State. No. 3-seeded SDSU opens the double-elimination tournament against No. 6-seeded Air Force. Junior right-hander Philip Walby (3-3, 3.60) is expected to start on the mound for the Aztecs. No. 4 seed Fresno State plays No. 5 seed Nevada in Wednesday's other game. Top-seeded New Mexico and No. 2 seed UNLV receive first-round byes.

If SDSU beats Air Force, then the Aztecs will play UNLV on Thursday.

The MWC Tournament champion receives the conference's automatic berth to the 64-team NCAA Tournament.

New Mexico (25-5, 35-18)
UNLV (18-12, 36-18)
San Diego State (15-15, 26-28)
Fresno State (13-16, 20-31)*
Nevada (11-18, 24-29)*
Air Force (7-23, 15-37)
*does not include Saturday night's game

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