NMSU Baseball's Title Bid Comes Up Short In Loss To CSU Bakersfield In Regular Season Finale

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Despite going down early, the New Mexico State baseball team rallied the best it could on Saturday and got within five runs of CSU Bakersfield before falling 13-8 in the series finale.

However, the Aggies captured their ninth series victory of the year before concluding the regular-season 35-20 overall and 19-5 in Western Athletic Conference play.

How It Happened
CSU Bakersfield struck early against the Aggies once again on Saturday in the series finale, starting the game off with a three spot before plating five runs in the third inning to go ahead 8-0 through three innings of action.

The ‘Runners scored two runs thanks to three-straight singles and then plated their third run on a wild pitch from NM State’s Johnathan Groff. The Aggie southpaw was chased from the game in the third with just one out.

Chris Butcher had a tough time keeping the CSUB batters off the base paths as well in relief of Groff, giving up a fielder’s choice, single and three-run homer that put the ‘Runners on top 8-0.

However, the Aggies did not wilt and spotted four runs in their half of the third inning. The rally began with back-to-back singles from Brent Sakurai and LJ Hatch. A third single from Austin Botello drove in Sakurai for NM State’s first run of the game before Dan Hetzel launched a three run jack over the wall in left center, cutting the CSUB lead in half – 8-4.

After a scoreless fourth frame, both teams went back at it again, this time with the ‘Runners pushing three runs across the plate to NM State’s two – making it 11-6. CSU Bakersfield put another crooked number on the scoreboard the very next inning, but the Aggies weren’t able to respond and headed into the seventh inning down 13-6.

Senior Matthew McHugh was effective in his relief on the hill for NM State, holding CSUB scoreless in 1.1 innings of work. Ruger Rodriguez, who tied the single-season saves record (9) this past Thursday then tossed a pair of scoreless innings for the Aggies.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Hetzel crushed a ball over the left field wall but was ultimately called back by the third-base umpire with it hooking just left of the foul pole. Jaron Balman hoped to start a rally for NM State when he ripped a pinch-hit triple off the centerfield wall, but it was not enough as the Aggies fell to CSUB 11-8.

Sakurai had a stellar finale at Presley Askew Field, going 5-for-5 from the plate to lead all players and was also 2-for-2 when leading off with three doubles and an RBI. Hetzel paced the Aggies with four runs batted in while Botello added two of his own.

By The Numbers
All eight runs for NM State came with two outs on Saturday, going 9-for-18…the top of the order for NM State combined to go 10-for-19 from the plate…the six runs given up by Groff were the most by the junior transfer this season…NM State is now 0-16 when trailing after six innings of play after Saturday’s loss…the loss in the series finale snapped a season-high nine-game win streak for the Aggies…this was the first loss of the season for the Aggies when both teams homer (11-1).

Up Next
New Mexico State now turns its attention towards the WAC Tournament where it’ll play as the No. 1-seed and receive a bye in the opening round. The Aggies’ first game at the conference tournament is schedule for 8 p.m. (MT) on Thursday, May 25, against the winner between the No.4-seed Utah Valley and No. 5-seed Northern Colorado. Those two teams are scheduled to face off in the WAC Tournament opening game at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24.