New Mexico stuns TCU in MWC final
Lobos become just second No. 6 seed to capture league title
SAN DIEGO - For its next trick, New Mexico will advance to the NCAA College World Series, only to find the remainder of the field has already fled in fear.
What seemed improbable at best and unlikely at least, the Lobos became just the second No. 6 seed in league history to capture the Mountain West Baseball Tournament Championship Friday night, knocking off top-seeded TCU 4-2.
New Mexico, which finished as the runner-up to TCU in 2010 but was ultimately rewarded with its first trip to the NCAA Regionals since 1962, will do so this time as an automatic qualifier --- with a record of 20-39.
And in the event that mark doesn't necessarily strike terror in the hearts of any forthcoming foe, know this: the Lobos, who pocketed their first Mountain West title in the process, don't much care.
"Coming in here, no one was giving us a chance," said New Mexico freshman third baseman DJ Peterson, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. "When you're looked at that way, there's nothing to lose. You come out and give 100 percent, win or lose. If we win, we go to a regional, and the only chance we had of doing that was to win the tournament."
And all sophomore righthander Austin House had to do was pitch the game of his life.
House, who came into the tournament with a record of 0-2 and an ERA of 6.97, was an absolute thorn where the Horned Frogs (42-17) were concerned. Making his first appearance in the tournament, House, who had made just two starts this season, established career highs for strikeouts (nine) and innings pitched (seven). He scattered eight hits and allowed one earned run before turning it over to reliever Bobby Mares, who limited TCU to one hit over the final two innings. The Horned Frogs, ranked as high as No. 7 in some national polls, had scored 26 runs while pounding out 31 hits in their previous two tournament games.
"(House) might not have had good numbers coming into the game, but he pitched lights-out," said TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, whose team was beaten twice by New Mexico in the double-elimination tournament after taking five of six from the Lobos during the regular season. "His stuff was outstanding. Any time we tested him, and we had a lot of opportunities through the first four innings to score runs, he made pitches."
House, who has been teammates with Lobo catcher Mitchell Garver since the two were nine years old, said he was largely working off adrenaline.
"I didn't have the best of seasons, so I just wanted to make sure I went out there and threw strikes," House said. "(TCU) swings the bat so well. I just wanted to try and get ahead in the count early and try to work off-speed late. With Mitch back there behind the plate, I guess you could say we got into a little bit of a groove. I don't think I've had too many better nights than this one."
Perhaps. Of course, the way things are going, the best may be yet to come.