Nearly a clean sweep

By and

The U baseball team has hit a major stumbling block.

Just last week, the Utes were riding high and looked prepared to make a run in the Mountain West. Now, after two unsuccessful in-conference road trips, the Utes have set themselves a few steps back.

The surging New Mexico Lobos dealt Utah a three-game sweep this weekend, culminating in Zach Arnett’s walk-off RBI double Sunday afternoon at Isotopes Field.

The Utes were hoping to salvage a win out of the trip after two disappointing losses on Friday and Saturday-and looked primed to do so. After falling behind 6-2 thanks to the Lobos’ five-run fourth inning, the Utes clawed their way back in and finally knotted the score at 8-8 on Eric King’s two-run homer in the top of the eighth.

But New Mexico (25-12, 7-3 MWC) answered those fireworks with a dramatic climax of its own.

Facing U freshman Brad DeVore-statistically Utah’s top reliever this season-the Lobos put runners on first and second for Arnett, a freshman catcher who hasn’t even been a full-time player this season.

Arnett, who earlier in the game hit the first homer of his Division-I career, drove a liner to right center, sending the winning run across the plate as New Mexico effectively sealed its seventh-straight win.

The only blemish in that stretch came Saturday afternoon when Utah and New Mexico met to finally complete the last inning of their April 2 meeting that was cut short with Utah leading 11-4.

Nothing changed Saturday, as neither team did any damage. After waiting three weeks for the opportunity, the Utes were finally able to post win No. 20 on their record.

But that was as good as it got for Utah (20-18, 4-6 MWC). In the series opener on Friday, the Lobos once again used a big inning-this time a five-run fifth-to give themselves a big cushion and withstand a late Ute rally. Drew McDonald knocked in a pair of runs with a single up the middle as the Lobos opened up a 5-1 advantage.

Utah closed the gap a half-inning later thanks in large part to Bret Baldwin’s two-run homer. But UNM scored three more runs in the eighth to put the game away, 8-5.

The Lobos easily dispatched the Utes in Saturday evening’s regularly scheduled ballgame, erupting for a 17-5 victory that was practically over halfway through.

The Lobos posted 10 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, including a three-run homer by Ian Hollick and a two-run triple from Ryan Barba. King was chased after four-plus innings, but the bullpen didn’t fare much better. Ute reliever Brian Lane gave up seven earned runs without registering a single out. King (3-5) took the loss, while Lobo junior Danny Ray Herrera stayed perfect (8-0) with eight strong innings.

While the Utes have now effectively lost five of their last six-after dropping two of three last weekend in a tight series with San Diego State-they will have to regroup quickly, as they take on UVSC on Tuesday in Orem.