The New Mexico State baseball team hosted Western Athletic Conference foe Grand Canyon in a crucial game two on Saturday at Presley Aske Field. After falling behind by four runs, the Aggies battled back with four scoring innings, including three multi-run frames, on the way to a decisive 9-4 victory over the Lopes.
For the second game of the three-game series, NM State (21-8, 5-3 WAC) sent senior pitcher Justin Dehn to the mound to counter Grand Canyon (17-13, 5-3 WAC) freshman Pierson Ohl. The Aggies threatened early with a pair of runners in scoring position in the first inning, but the opposition got out of the jam before putting the Crimson & White in a hole of their own.
In the top of the second inning, the Lopes saw a leadoff home run to left open the scoring in the ballgame. Then with two runners on, a wild pitch moved men to second and third with only one out. This allowed a fielder’s choice to score the runner from third to put NM State down 2-0 into the third inning.
Then in the top of the third, the opposition got going at the plate once more. Grand Canyon led off the frame with a single through the left side before a wild pitch moved the runner to second, followed by an RBI double to the gap in left for a 3-0 Aggie deficit. Two batters later, the Lopes had a man standing 90 feet from home plate when a sacrifice fly brought home another run to put the Crimson & White behind 4-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
This bottom half was when the Aggie bats struck back. With two outs, Joey Ortiz was the first runner on with a ground-rule double over the right field wall. Nick Gonzales followed this up with a base on balls to leave two on with two outs for Tristan Peterson. The slugger delivered in his at-bat when he turned on a pitch that was a no-doubter to left field for a three-run home run that put the Aggies down just one, 4-3, a deficit that lasted into the fifth.
In the bottom half of the fifth, GCU brought in a reliever and NM State took advantage. A walk, followed by a single up the middle to lead off the frame left runners on the corners. Two batters later an infield groundout brought in the game-tying run. This left a man on second with two outs and Tristen Carranza laced an RBI single up the middle to give the home team a one-run lead. With runners on first and second, Eric Mingus knocked a single to short and an errant throw brought home the man from second and NM State held a 6-4 lead through five.
The Aggie lead then expanded in the bottom of the sixth. After Logan Bottrell got on base with a single to left, Ortiz stepped to the dish and laced a triple to right center to bring him home and make the lead for the Crimson & White stand at 7-4 into the seventh.
After reliever Keaton Graf came to the mound in the top of the seventh and tossed a quick one-two-three frame, the Aggies added a few insurance runs in the bottom half. An intentional walk loaded the bases with just one out and the Lopes went to the pen. The reliever could not escape the jam as he walked his first batter to bring in one run. Then the next at-bat saw Bottrell loft a sacrifice fly to center to plate one more and give NM State a 9-4 advantage that lasted into the ninth.
Any hopes of a comeback for the opposition were squashed quickly by hurler Andrew Edwards. The reliever got a groundout to the shortstop and back-to-back swinging strikeouts to go three-up and three-down in the final frame that secured the Aggies 9-4 victory and evened up the series with the Lopes, 1-1.
The Crimson & White had a strong day at the plate combining for 12 hits, led by Ortiz who went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and Peterson who added one home run and four runs batted in. On the mound, Dehn (5-2) picked up the win after 6.0 innings of work with five punch outs.
The New Mexico State baseball squad now looks for the series win over conference rival Grand Canyon in the series finale on Sunday, April 7, at 12:05 p.m. MT on Presley Askew Field.