LAS CRUCES, N.M. – An early five-run lead wasn’t enough for the New Mexico State baseball program on Thursday night.

Offensive fireworks were flying early at Presley Askew Field before both pitching staffs settled in for the remainder of the evening. Needing ten innings to do so, California Baptist mustered a 7-6 win over NM State in the series opener.

Kevin Jimenez opened the scoring in the first inning with a sacrifice fly to the wall in center field, scoring Keith Jones II. One inning later, the Aggies struck for four runs to crack the game wide open.
After a leadoff double by Nolan Funke, Edwin Martinez-Pagani drove him home with an infield single to the first baseman. With the bases loaded, Damone Hale smoked a line drive off the pitcher to bring home Martinez-Pagani. Following a Jimenez walk to re-load the bases, Nick Gore drove in a pair of runs with a single to right field, making the score 5-0.

California Baptist quickly evened the score with five runs of their own in the top of the third. Dustin Garcia played the hero in the frame, lifting a grand slam for four runs on one swing of the bat.
With two outs in the bottom half of the third, NM State regained the lead, following a dropped fly ball by the Lancers’ centerfielder. The game would remain 6-5 in favor of NM State until a solo shot for California Baptist knotted the score in the fifth inning.
Hayden Walker and Matthew Maloney were stupendous in relief for the Aggies, combining to work 4.1 innings, allowing just one combined hit. The duo fanned five in relief on their way to holding CBU hitters to just .067 at the plate.

NM State appeared to be threatening to end the game in the bottom of the ninth when aggressive baserunning went wrong. Following a leadoff walk by Jones II, Jimenez roped a single to left-center field. Jones tried to stretch from first to third to put the winning run just 90 feet away with one out. When the dust settled, the Aggies were doubled up and headed to extra innings for the third time in 2023.
In the tenth inning, the bounces kept going in the Lancers favor. With two outs, Josh Paino poked a single back through the middle, using the pitcher’s mound as a ramp. The ball deflected off of a diving Jimenez’s glove and into center field, bringing home the go-ahead run.
Trailing by a run, the tenth inning appeared to be once again trending positively for the Aggies. Back-to-back walks from Gore and Christian Perez put two aboard with nobody out before a failed sacrifice bunt put one away. From there, the Aggies were retired on back-to-back strikeouts, allowing California Baptist to escape with a 7-6 win in the series opener.

The Aggies and Lancers will square off in game two of the three-game series at 6 p.m. Friday in Las Cruces.