LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) – The Aggies started the day with five wins and finished it with seven.
NM State rolled to two victories Saturday at Presley Askew Field, taking down Iona (0-6) with a 9-6 win in game one before securing an 8-1 triumph in the nightcap.
The Aggies improve to 7-0 on the season with the duo of wins, matching their best start to a campaign since 2011 when NM State opened the year with nine straight wins.
HOW IT HAPPENED
NM State, thanks to two freshmen, struck first with runs in the bottom of the second inning. Infielder Mark McNelly and outfielder Zerek Saenz each contributed an RBI to put the Aggies ahead, 2-0.
Junior starter Lyle Hibbitts, meanwhile, quieted Iona’s bats across the first four innings, striking out three. The Gaels got to him for three runs in the top of the fifth, however, knocking him out of the ballgame.
Nursing a one-run lead in the sixth, Iona tacked on another three to open up a 6-2 advantage headed into the bottom half of the frame.
With their backs against the wall, the Aggies went to work. NM State scored seven unanswered runs, including five in the sixth, to flip the script.
Junior infielder Nick Gonzales scored on a wild pitch in the decisive sixth inning to put the Aggies ahead, 7-6. Sophomore outfielder Tristan Stacy and McNelly each added an RBI in the seventh and eighth, respectively, to grow NM State’s edge to three.
Redshirt junior Frank Dickson Jr. pitched the final three frames and held the Gaels scoreless, striking out two to secure the 9-6 win for the Aggies.
NM State put the second contest of the day away early with four runs in the bottom of the first.
Sophomore infielder Austin Duffy drove in two with a single to left center before redshirt senior catcher Jason Bush knocked in another pair with his single to center.
The story of the ballgame, however, was sophomore starter Chris Barraza. The native of Tucson, Ariz., twirled a gem, allowing just one run on four hits while striking out five in six innings of work.
The Aggies scored runs in fourth, fifth and sixth innings, allowing them to comfortably turn the ball over to redshirt senior Alex Pinedo.
The El Paso native came on in relief of Barraza and closed out the final three innings of the game. He struck out three en route to locking down the 8-1 victory.
COACH KIRBY’S TAKE
On sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader
“I thought the boys really emptied their tanks for 18 innings today. Barraza had his fastball and slider working, and he threw a couple of dirty splits and got ahead in the count.”
On Hibbitts’ outing in game one
“He was way more in character today. That’s what we expect from him. He was able to mix all three of his pitches early in counts and did a good job getting ground balls. It was a solid game all the way around.”
On the offense’s approach
“We wanted to score first, and we put up a four-spot in the first inning of game two. When they got a run in the top of the fourth, we answered in the bottom. That’s what we’re trying to put together.”
On the offense totaling 17 runs in two games without a home run
“These guys know how to hit. They can hit it the other way, they can get ahead in the count, they can get the ball elevated. They had good at-bats, and the dugout’s energy was outstanding.”
The series between the Aggies and Gaels concludes at noon tomorrow inside The ‘Skew. The contest, originally scheduled for 11 a.m. MT, was pushed back an hour.