Aggie Baseball Falls To Seattle 12-10 In WAC Tournament; Botello, Popylisen, Johnson Named To All-Tournament Team

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

MESA, AZ - After going down 11-5 after three innings, New Mexico State (34-23) had their comeback cut up short in the 12-10 loss to Seattle U (37-20) on Saturday. The Aggies finished the 2016 campaign with 23 wins more than the 2015 season, a turnaround of plus-19.

The Aggies came out hot as WAC Player of the Year Daniel Johnson led off the game with a single up the middle. Greg Popylisen laid down a sac bunt to move Johnson to second. Austin Botello laced a RBI single to center, scoring Johnson and putting the Aggies up 1-0 after an inning.

NM State continued to score in the second, as Trey Stine doubled to center to lead off the inning. Tristen Carranza grounded out to short, moving Stine to third. Brent Sakurai punched a ball through the left side for a RBI single, scoring Stine. Daniel Johnson beat out a bunt base hit back to the pitcher, putting runners at first and second. Greg Popylisen singled to left to load the bases with one out. Austin Botello singled to center, scoring Sakurai. A wild pitch scored Johnson, and moved Popylisen and Botello into scoring position. Dan Hetzel was hit by a pitch, reloading the bases. Mason Fishback hit a sac fly down the right field line, scoring Popylisen and putting the Aggies up 5-0 after two and a half innings.

The Redhawks offense woke up in the bottom of the second. All told, Seattle U scored seven runs on five hits with two errors on the short stop. After two innings, the Aggies trailed 7-5.

Seattle U kept the pressure on in the third. The Redhawks pushed the lead to 11-5 in the inning, scoring four runs on five hits.

The Aggies began to chip away in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. L.J. Hatch doubled to left center to start the fifth. Brent Sakurai singled to second, with Hatch scoring on a fielding error by the second baseman. Austin Botello led off the sixth with a first pitch bomb into the right field bullpens. Brent Sakurai drew a full count walk to start the seventh, and later scored on a ground out to second by Greg Popylisen, cutting the lead to 11-9.

The Redhawks managed to add an insurance run in the seventh. A leadoff single up the middle would later come around to score on a single to left, putting the score at 12-9 after seven innings.

NM State cut the lead to two runs in the eighth as Mason Fishback singled to center to start the inning. L.J. Hatch followed that up with a single of his own to right. Trey Stine flied out to center, moving Fishback to third. Joseph Koerper reached second on an E6 throwing error, put scored Fishback. With runners in scoring postion, Brent Sakurai hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Hatch and putting the score at 12-10. The Aggies were unable to finished the comeback in the ninth as a 6-4-3 double play with a close play at first ended the game.

The comeback would not have been possible, however, if Andy Frakes had not pitched a career-best 5.1 innings out of the bullpen, only allowing two hits, a run and striking out two batters.

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Juniors Austin Botello, Daniel Johnson and Greg Popylisen were named to the Western Athletic Conference All-Tournament Team.

Botello, a native of Galveston, Texas, finished the tournament going eight for 18 at the plate with a home run, four runs scored and four RBI. He registered a .611 slugging percentage and a .474 on-base percentage during the Aggies four games.

Johnson, the WAC Player of the Year from Vallejo, Calif., finished the tournament going nine-for-20 at the plate with one extra-base hit, five runs scored and two RBI. He registered a .500 slugging percentage and a .450 on-base percentage during the Aggies four games.

Popylisen, a Highlands Ranch, Colo. product, finished the tournament going eight-for-18 at the plate with two extra-base hits, a triple, four runs scored and three RBI. Popylisen was responsible for the walk-off single in the second game on Friday against Sacramento State, advancing the Aggies to Saturday.