Aggies baseball begins WAC at UT Pan American
El Paso, TX — The New Mexico State baseball team will conclude its 11-game road trip where it began, in Texas, as the Aggies head to Edinburg, Texas, to open up the 2014 Western Athletic Conference schedule with a three-game series versus the Texas-Pan American Broncs beginning on Friday, March 21.
Friday’s game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. (MDT) start at Edinburg Baseball Stadium. Game two will be played on Saturday, March 22, beginning at 5 p.m. (MDT) while the series finale is set for Sunday, March 23, beginning at noon (MDT). Fans in Las Cruces can catch all three games over the radio airwaves on KSNM 570 AM with Jeff Mathews on the call.
NM State and the Broncs have met on 18 previous occasions on the baseball diamond with the Aggies holding a 13-5 advantage. The first meeting between the two schools was in 1986 and the most recent was in 2012 when NM State swept a four-game series in Las Cruces.
The Aggies begin their ninth WAC regular season with an 8-12 overall record. NM State is 1-7 on the road this season, picking up its only road win during its most recent series, at UC Davis. The Aggies won the first game of the series versus the Davis Aggies before losing the final three.
NM State once again is atop many WAC offensive categories including leading the conference in runs scored (126), hits (182), RBIs (115), home runs (11) and walks (115). The Aggie pitching staff also leads the WAC in strikeouts (129).
The Aggies have five players hitting over .300 including senior first baseman Kris Koerper who also leads the WAC with 19 RBIs and is tied with teammate Ryan Wagner for the conference lead in home runs with three.
Senior left-hander Chris Bradley is the probable starter for NM State during Friday’s opening game. Bradley is 1-2 with 25 strikeouts on the season and has a team-best 2.79 ERA among pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched.
Senior Kyle Kilgore has emerged as a double threat for the Aggie squad. The right-hander from Tucson, Ariz., is 2-1 on the mound this season with 12 strikeouts while also making an impact at the plate. Kilgore has 21 plate appearances and leads the team with a .381 batting average and a .667 slugging percentage.
Texas-Pan American, meanwhile, will play its first-ever conference game as a member of the WAC as the Broncs begin their first season in the conference. Texas-Pan American is 10-13 on the season and comes into Friday’s game on a four-game losing streak. The Broncs have played well at home, however, where they hold an 8-3 record.
Five of Texas-Pan American’s losses have come at the hands of top-25 teams Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The Broncs did manage to pick up a 3-1 victory over No. 15 Oklahoma State during their three-game series.
Head coach Manny Mantrana, who is in his sixth season at the helm of the Broncs, coached the team to a 28-30 record last season as part of the now defunct Great West Conference. The 28 wins were the school’s second-highest win total in 13 years. The team also won a school-best 17 conference games.
NM State will face one of the best pitchers in the WAC on Friday in Bronc senior Sam Street. The right-hander was selected as the WAC Preseason Pitcher of the Year by College Sports Madness and has not disappointed. Street is 5-0 in five starts with a 0.84 ERA and a WAC-leading 37 strikeouts.
Offensively, senior outfielder Alex Howe, who was a WAC preseason first-team pick by College Sports Madness, leads Texas-Pan American with a .333 batting average and 12 RBIs. Howe has three doubles, a triple and a home run on the season.