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'Topes open vs. Univ of New Mexico


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Ungs gets the start...real thing starts on Thursday.


UNM baseball team takes on Isotopes

April 4, 2006


Playing in Isotopes Park against the Albuquerque Isotopes gives University of New Mexico coach Rich Alday a delight he rarely finds.



Game time: 6:05 tonight


Site: Isotopes Park


Fast fact: Last year marked the first Isotopes-Lobos matchup. The Isotopes won 17-4.



This joy emanates from Alday's players when they trot in the dugout after recording a hit off a Triple-A Isotopes pitcher.


Unless the UNM baseball team is on the sour end of a no-hitter, the coach will find that joy again today during an exhibition game against the Isotopes, the Triple-A farm team of the Florida Marlins.


The Albuquerque Isotopes start their season Thursday at the Iowa Cubs.


"A guy in Triple-A is one step up, so if one of my players gets a base hit off a guy the big leagues just called up, my player can say he got a hit off a major leaguer," Alday said. "It's fun when you see them return from the dugout after getting a hit off those guys."


Facing the Isotopes isn't the time to become awe-struck or giddy, the UNM players say.


This is a time for two things - boosting confidence for the individual and the team.


If a college player has major-league aspirations - and many usually do - then a solid outing off seasoned minor-league pitching is encouraging.


If a team has lost three of four with 11 runs scored during that span - like the Lobos - a string of hits off better competition could trigger more Mountain West Conference wins.


"Our bats have been struggling, so it would be huge for our team to play well," sophomore infielder Jordan Pacheco said. "It would boost our confidence."


Pacheco, a third-team All-American as a freshman, impressed against the Isotopes last season with a 2-for-3 performance.


The plan for Pacheco is to have a bigger day against Albuquerque starter Nic Ungs, the parent Marlins' 12th-round draft pick in 2001.


Pacheco isn't alone.


"Hopefully we can follow the path of these guys to Triple-A and the pros," Pacheco said. "I think that's the dream for all of us. We work pretty hard, so we'd like to think playing well against them has something to do with our hard work and the direction of our baseball careers."


First, a hitter must decipher the difference between Isotopes pitching and Mountain West Conference pitching.


The minor leaguers throw better sliders, have better placement and find better ways of fooling you.


"They have better command of the strike zone," Lobos third baseman Ian Hollick said. "It's their experience. We face pitchers here with a lot of velocity, but these guys do more with it."

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