NMSU Baseball Edges CSU Bakersfield 9-8, Keeps WAC Title Hopes Alive

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The solo shot from Greg Popylisen in the eighth inning proved to be the game-winner at the end of the night on Thursday as NM State edged past CSU Bakersfield 9-8 at Presley Askew Field.

The win keeps NM State’s hopes of sharing a regular-season title with Grand Canyon alive with two more contests remaining.

How It Happened
CSU Bakersfield struck first in the opening frame of play and plated a run on three passed balls by the Aggie backstop. New Mexico State, the league leaders in eight offensive categories, didn’t trail for long. LJ Hatch first connected on a 3-2 fastball and made it 1-1 before a 2-run opposite shot by Mason Fishback put the Aggies ahead, 3-1.

After Kyle Bradish sat the ‘Runners down in order, Joey Ortiz pushed the Aggie lead to 4-1 on double down the right-field line that scored the speedy Greg Popylisen from first.

CSUB (28-21, 13-9 WAC) cut the lead to 4-3 in the top of the third on a single from David Metzgar and then the second on a passed ball with the bases loaded.

Brent Sakurai made it 6-3 in favor of NM State after he laced a triple to left-center, which tied the program record for most triples in a single-season with eight. Tristen Carranza drove in his 52nd RBI of the year on a sac-fly to center, scoring Austin Botello – who led off with a double and moved to third after Fishback’s single.

Bradish retired six-straight batters before getting into some trouble in the sixth frame. Matthew McHugh came in relief of Bradish after the sophomore surrendered a pair of walks and rounded the bases on a double by Junior Felix. Back-to-back singles from CSUB then tied the game up at seven before McHugh was able to get Ryan Grotjohn to fly out to left.

Popylisen regained the 8-7 lead for NM State after advancing to second on a sac-bunt from Joey Ortiz and then scored on a single from Sakurai.

The duo of McHugh and Dalton Shalberg held the ‘Runners scoreless in the seventh and eighth, which set up Ruger Rodriguez for his ninth save of the season – which tied the single-season record in save with Scott Coffman (2011) and Orlando Griego (1989).

However, the ‘Runners didn’t make it easy on Rodriguez. A passed ball with men on the corners brought CSUB within 9-8 of New Mexico State, but a fielder’s choice, strikeout and fly out to deep left field ended the threat.

Five Aggies ended the night with a pair of hits, while Sakurari, Fishback and Ortiz each tallied two RBI. McHugh walked away with his fourth win of the year in relief of Bradish.

The victory moves the Aggies win streak to eight games and holds their unblemished record in the month of May (8-0).

By The Numbers
New Mexico State is now 29-2 when scoring more six-plus runs in a game…the Aggies are now 21-1 when they have more hits than their opponents…the last time NM State won a one-run game was in its third game of the season, the second game of a double-header against Bryant on Feb. 18…the win on Thursday was the Aggies’ sixth victory when opponents score six-plus runs…

Odds & Ends
Ortiz became the sixth Aggie this season to tally 20-plus multi-hit games after going 2-for-4 on Thursday…the freshman also became the seventh NM State player to register 10 or more games with multiple RBI… Botello has now reached base safely in 28-straight games after singling to right center in the third…with three homers on Thursday, the Aggie batters now have 16 games where they’ve recorded multiple homers and seventh time this season with three jacks in a game.

Up Next
The Aggies and ‘Runnners return to The ‘Skew for the second game of the series at 6 p.m. (MT) on Friday, May 19. Prior to the game, the NM State baseball team will be hosting a kids clinic at 4:30 p.m. Fans can get more information and sign their kids up by clicking here, or by calling Assistant AD for Marketing & Promotions DJ Downs at 575-646-5348 or by email at ddowns@nmsu.edu.