The New Mexico State baseball team opened a three-game weekend series against Western Athletic Conference foe Grand Canyon on Friday night at Presley Askew Field. After tying the game up in the fifth, the Aggies lost the lead in the next frame and could not mount a late comeback falling to the Lopes in the series opener, 7-4.
A strong pitching duel opened the contest with NM State (20-8, 4-3 WAC) starter Brock Whittlesey taking the mound to square off against Grand Canyon (17-12, 5-2 WAC) ace Kade Mechals. The Lopes threatened early when they loaded the bases with one out in the opening frame, but Whittlesey got a strikeout swinging and an infield groundout to hold the opposition scoreless.
Over the next three innings, GCU stranded four more runners and the Crimson & White remained quiet at the plate to hold the game scoreless. Then each side got going at the plate in the fifth inning to get the first runs up on the board.
A hit by pitch led off the top of the fifth to get one man on for the Lopes. The next batter then sent a two-run home run over the wall in centerfield to put the Aggies down 2-0. This was followed two batters later by a solo home run, again to center, that put NM State behind 3-0 into the bottom of the fifth.
That next frame saw the Aggies answer with a couple home runs of their own. Tristan Peterson led off the frame with a single to left, NM State’s first hit of the ballgame. Logan Ehnes then stepped to the dish and crushed his first home run of the season to cut into the Lopes lead. Eric Mingus then made it back-to-back jacks when he blasted a solo home run to tie the game up at three runs apiece heading to the sixth.
A pitching change occurred for the Aggies in the top of the sixth. The reliever saw a single lead off the frame before two infield groundouts moved the runner to third with two outs. A base on balls put runners on the corners before a single to left brought in one run to put NM State down 4-3 through six innings.
The Aggies deficit grew in the seventh when the Lopes added two more runs to the board. A single up the middle, followed by an infield error put two runners in scoring position with no outs. The next batter then sent a single to right that brought home both runners for a 6-3 NM State hole.
Then in the eighth Grand Canyon added an insurance run. A sacrifice bunt moved a runner into scoring position before a wild pitch put the man 90 feet from home. An infield groundout scored the run and the Crimson & White trailed 7-3.
In the bottom half of the eighth, the Aggies looked to chip away at this deficit. Nick Gonzales was the first runner on base after being hit by a pitch. Tristen Carranza then sent a double down the left field line that was bobbled by the outfielder allowing Gonzales to score.
This was the closest the Aggies would get, however, as the remaining outs were recorded that saw NM State fall to GCU in the series opener, 7-4.
The New Mexico State baseball team now looks to rebound in game two against Grand Canyon on Saturday, April 6, at 2:05 p.m. MT on Presley Askew Field.