ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – At the start of the season, University of New Mexico baseball coach Ray Birmingham had an idea of which four teams would probably play in the Mountain West Tournament. He guessed his Lobos, Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State. He got all of the teams right.
When the Lobos start with Nevada Thursday, it will be a rematch of last year’s Mountain West Tournament Championship game won by the Lobos.
“The fact that we get to host it here, I like to say that puts us at a great advantage,” said Lobos senior Matt Villalobos. “Our park plays a lot differently than other areas. We will have that going for us definitely.”
Villalobos helped his team snag the outright conference title and right to host the tournament when he sent a three run blast out of the park against Nevada on the last day of the regular season.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” said Villalobos. “I knew we had guys on first and second with one out. I mean I was really trying to drive the ball in the right center gap. You know I just put a good enough swing on it that it just happened to work out that way.”
Villalobos only had 12 career at bats prior to his heroics on Senior Day. The Lobos win combined with a San Diego State loss gave the Lobos the regular season title and right to host the tournament for a second straight year. Whether Mountain West Tournament or regular season title, the Lobos have collected seven championships in 10 years.
Coach Ray Birmingham is still waiting to see the best from his team this season.
“We won the conference and I still don’t think we’ve played good baseball as a team for a whole game yet,” said Birmingham “Of course, I want perfection.”
The Lobos and Nevada face one another in the double elimination Mountain West Tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday. San Diego State and Fresno State will play the first game of the day at 3 p.m.