The University of New Mexico is not a perennial powerhouse.
The school began playing baseball in 1899 but has advanced to the NCAA postseason only once. When it comes to ranking the greats in baseball history, USC is certainly at or near the top. New Mexico is not.
But make no mistake about it, the Lobos can play. Just ask No. 3 Texas.
Two weeks ago, both teams opened the season in Austin, Texas, where then-No. 1 Texas dropped two of three games to unranked New Mexico.
Now, nobody is taking the Lobos lightly.
The Lobos (6-3) come to Dedeaux Field for a three-game series with the Trojans (4-4) that starts tonight. And UNM brings a lot of firepower.
Junior catcher Rafael Neda has picked up right where he left off in 2009. Through nine games, he’s hitting .447 with a team-leading two home runs and 10 RBIs. Last season, he finished the year batting over .400.
Two of his teammates, senior outfielder Chris Juarez and senior first baseman/outfielder Justin Howard, are also hitting over .400 for the season. Howard is one of the most patient hitters on the team, sporting an on-base percentage of more than .500 to complement his hitting.
The Trojans will counter with a slightly different rotation than the one they’ve used the last two weeks.
Sophomore pitcher Andrew Triggs (1-0, 5.11) will make his third start of the season in tonight’s contest. Triggs has 11 strikeouts in just over 12 innings of work.
Senior pitcher Kevin Couture (0-0, 3.12) will also make his regular start Sunday. He pitched only one and two-thirds innings last Sunday against UCLA, leaving the game at Dodger Stadium early after being hit by a line drive in the second inning. But he is ready to go for the series finale.
Saturday’s start, however, will go to sophomore Ben Mount, instead of sophomore Chad Smith. Mount (0-1, 4.05) has pitched well for the Trojans as a starter and a reliever.
He made his lone start of the season on Feb. 23 against Loyola Marymount and went six strong innings. On Sunday, he relieved Couture and went four and one-third innings while allowing three runs.
He took the loss in the game last Sunday but pitched well in defeat. Now, he joins the weekend rotation, at least for this series.
The Lobos are in the middle of a five-game road trip. They traveled to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to take on New Mexico State and split the two-game series. They won the first game 9-6 before dropping Wednesday’s contest, 17-8.
USC last played UNM in 1985 at Dedeaux Field. The Lobos won, 7-1, but the Trojans lead the all-time series 3-1.
Tomorrow’s game is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start, and Sunday’s matchup will begin at 1 p.m.