An end to an era of Lobo Baseball took place on a sunny Saturday afternoon as hall of fame coach Ray Birmingham coached his final game for the cherry and silver.
Although the season proved to be a disappointment with the Lobos finishing with a 16-24 record, including an 11-10 loss in the final game of the season against visiting San Diego State, not one person in attendance cared as a packed house at Santa Ana Star Field said goodbye to the Cowboy coach one last time.
The Aztecs jumped out early with a two-run triple by first baseman Jacob Cruce in the top of the first inning. SDSU would add a pair of runs in each of the next two frames before breaking the game wide open with a four-run sixth inning to take what would turn out to be an insurmountable 8-4 lead.
As you would expect of a team playing for their beloved skipper one list time, the Lobos did not give up easily and fought to the end.
UNM stormed back with five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, capped off by an RBI triple by Harry Fullerton off of reliever Avery Jones.
The Lobos added another run in the bottom of the eighth to make it just a one-run game but could not come through with the needed run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, despite two runners on base in the final frame.
Coach B took the field one last time to thank the fans, his players, the university, and the state of New Mexico before donning a Cowboy hat and mounting a horse for a proper send-off for the Cowboy coach.
No other person did more for the state of New Mexico with regards to furthering the game of baseball and helping hundreds of young men become better baseball players, student-athletes, and members of our community.
Coach Birmingham will undoubtedly be missed, but his legacy will live on forever.
Below is a tribute to Coach B that was played at the conclusion of the game on Saturday.
Harry Fullerton notched three hits and drove in four runs to lead the University of New Mexico Lobos to an 8-4 victory on Sunday and a three-game series sweep over the host San José State Spartans.
The win on Sunday secured a second-consecutive series sweep for the Lobos as the regular season winds down in what will be the final campaign in the storied coaching career for head coach Ray Birmingham.
New Mexico won the first game of the series on 6-2 on Saturday, with Connor Mang and Kyler Castillo each driving in three runs and Nathaniel Garely scattering just five hits over five innings to earn the win.
Game two of the doubleheader turned out to be an offensive barrage for the Lobos in a lopsided 14-2 win. Adam Schneider led the Lobos with three hits in five at-bats, Kyler Castillo scored a team-high three runs, and Fullerton drove in four runs, including a home run in the seventh inning off of Spartan receiver Kyle Bratset.
Fullerton carried over his hot play into the final game of the series on Sunday. His second-inning single to drive in Connor Mang extended UNM’s lead to 2-0. After flying out to right in his next at-bat, Fullerton would come through with a two-run double that proved to be the hit of the game.
The Spartans posted three runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a one-run lead. Instead of allowing Corey Sanchez to post a shutdown inning in the top of the sixth, Fullerton and the Lobos posted their own three-spot to regain the lead.
UNM would add an insurance run in both the eighth and ninth inning, but the Spartans would not score another run on the day.
With the win, the Lobos move to 15-23 on the year, and 9-15 in Mountain West Conference play.
They wrap up the season at home against San Diego State in a double-header on Saturday, May 28th.
Be sure to catch all of the exciting action as the Lobos look to continue winning out in Birmingham’s final home series. Listen live on-air, online at www.1017theteam.com, and on the TEAM app.
The Lobos were scheduled to take on UNLV at home this past weekend in a three-game series that was canceled due to a covid-19 issue with the Rebels.
Instead of playing against a conference foe at home, the Lobos pivoted to a last-minute series on the road against a talented Washington Huskies team.
In addition to the schedule change, UNM players learned earlier in the week that coach Ray Birmingham, the winningest coach in New Mexico baseball history and the manager for the school for the past 14 seasons, will retire following the conclusion of the 2021 campaign.
All things considered, the Lobos should not have been much of a match for a Washington team that took two of three games against the No.10 ranked UCLA Bruins earlier this month.
Don’t tell that to coach B and the Lobos.
UNM battled the Huskies in all three games of the series, taking Washington to extra innings in two of the three games.
Washington won the opening game of the weekend with a 4-3 victory in ten innings on Friday in Seattle.
New Mexico would respond with their own extra-inning victory on Saturday, highlighted by three consecutive RBI hits by Connor Mang, Mack Chambers, and Kyler Castillo to plate three Lobos in the top of the 12th. Washington would rally with a run in their half of the inning, but it proved to be not enough as the Lobos held on to a 5-3 win.
The Lobos jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the rubber match of the series on Sunday, with a run in the top of the third and fourth innings. The Huskies responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game, capped by an RBI single by infielder Will Simpson.
The two teams played three more innings of scoreless baseball before the Huskies won the game in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off single by Simpson, who drove in two of the three Washington runs on the day.
“These kids battle their butts off and just need a break,” said head coach Ray Birmingham in a quote to GoLobos.com.
“Washington came off of beating UCLA in a series, and we had our chances to take this one. Not an easy week for us as Texas Tech is loaded, and then we get back home for Fresno State. We have to keep fighting.”
With the loss, the Lobos fell to 9-16 on the year. They continue the 2021 season against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Wednesday before heading home for a four-game series against Fresno State at Santa Ana Star Field.
University of New Mexico head baseball coach Ray Birmingham will step down at the conclusion of the 2021 season, ending an impressive 43-year coaching career, including 14 seasons at the helm of the Lobos baseball program.
A 2015 inductee into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame, Coach Birmingham is the winningest coach in New Mexico baseball history, with 1,224 wins over his illustrious career.
“I want to thank the people of New Mexico for being so good to me for so long,” said Birmingham in a release from the school.
“I have always believed that New Mexico kids can do just as much as anybody else in the country, and I have committed my entire life to prove that and helping them prove that. I have always believed in leaving it better than you found it, and I feel good that I have done that”
One hundred sixty-seven different players who played under coach Birmingham went on to play at the professional level, including 39 Lobos.
In addition to his time coaching in New Mexico, Birmingham spent the summer of 2014 as the hitting coach for USA Baseball’s Colligate National Team and has coached at numerous baseball clinics in the USA and abroad.
A legend on the diamond and in the community, Birmingham will be greatly missed by Lobo fans and the many members of the New Mexico baseball community he touched over the years.
Too many college sports fans here in Albuquerque and our state of New Mexico aren’t paying enough attention to the recently passed Student Athlete Endorsement Act that goes into effect on July 1. I know it’s not a sexy topic like the New Mexico United about to kick off their season or the transactional nature of a new player or coach joining or leaving the Lobos or Aggies. But the developments we discussed yesterday on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM are incredibly powerful conversations that can become seriously impactful to the college sports we all love so much.
Why is this suddenly big news? Because here in New Mexico, Republican Senator Mark Moores is spearheading a bipartisan effort, and on a national scale, Justice Brett Kavanaugh has demonstrated harsh criticism towards the NCAA from his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Though the comments being made aren’t anything new, this conversation has been going on for decades – it is who it is coming from that is important.
Research will suggest to you that more of the college athletics donors and local politicians that are supportive of the college sports programs we love are Republican. On the other hand, those that are more likely to question intercollegiate athletics and its systems are Democrat. DISCLAIMER: I did not say always (for some of you please take a breath), just more likely.
The questioning of the power and money of the NCAA and its member institutions has gone on far enough under the radar that you, the casual or even serious sports fan, didn’t know or care much about it. You have been largely informed that the athletes get more than enough compensation, and how dare they ask for more. They should appreciate what they get! That type of conversation has been perpetuated for decades to ward off any kind of significant change to the current college sports system. As long as that support was being upheld by the right people with money and power, there was little athletes or advocates could do about it.
But to have Moores and Kavanaugh speak out challenging this image and because of where they are making those comments from – the right side of the aisle – this is significant. It is rare to find voices of this orientation making comments that could be detrimental to the power structure that keeps the NCAA and its member schools going. Where this goes from here, no one can predict. Some see it as being the end of enormous coaching salaries, others as the long-term death of non-revenue generating sports, and there are those that believe this will benefit everyone in college sports because it’s making it a more equitable place for the kids we cheer on (and unfortunately sometimes boo). Regardless of the specific outcome, if you love college sports, this is a topic you should start to follow because it will eventually impact your favorite team whether you agree with the cause or not.
New Mexico State Senator Mark Moores joined Joe O’Neill, Paul Weir, and Sam Hauser on TEAM Talk to discuss the Student Athlete Endorsement Act. Below is the full interview.