The New Mexico State baseball team couldn’t overcome the handful of errors it committed Friday night at UCCU Ballpark and surrendered a late lead before falling 10-9 in walk-off fashion to Utah Valley to set up the rubber match on Saturday.
The first inning saw both teams a little unfocused on the defensive end, with both clubs giving up unearned runs. Gonzales scored for NM State (27-10, 10-4 WAC) after reaching on an error while Trevor Howell reached and scored on an error for UVU in the home half of the frame.
Utah Valley (9-29, 6-8 WAC) threatened in the bottom of the third after Dehn walked the first two batters and hit the third to load the bases. Ryan Eastburn, the very next batter, singled through the right side and scored two – giving the Wolverines their first lead of the series. Utah Valley added three more runs before Wyatt Kelley, who came in relief of Dehn, was able to get the two remaining outs to stop the bleeding.
New Mexico State got a run back in the top-half of the fourth frame when Noah Haupt plated Logan Ehnes from third. Ehnes led things off with a walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a grounder before scoring on Haupt’s single.
The Wolverines once again threatened, putting runners on the corners but Kelley was able to get out of the jam and keep the Aggies within 6-2 striking distance of UVU.
Gonzales cut the Wolverine lead to 6-3 after he scored Kevin Jimenez with runners on the corners before Tristan Peterson blasted a 2-run bomb to left and brought the Aggies within 6-5 in the fifth. Ehnes then drew a walk before Eric Mingus singled to right to put runners on the corners. However, UVU’s Paxton Schultz was able to get a fastball past Haupt and put a halt on the Aggie offense.
Aldo Fernandez held UVU at bay after pitching back-to-back scoreless innings and kept the Aggies within 6-5 of Utah Valley through six innings of action after relieving Kelley in the fourth.
Gonzales led things off in the seventh for NM State with a double before advancing to third on a wild pitch. Tristen Carranza then plated him to tie the game up at 6-6 with a deep triple to center before getting tagged out on a squeeze bunt by Ehnes. NM State then loaded the bases with two outs after an error by the UVU second baseman, but the Aggies weren’t able to capitalize and settled with a single run to tie the game up.
Alex Reyes came into pitch for NM State in the seventh and labored to start, loading the bases full of Wolverines with just one out before getting a crucial punchout. He then induced the grounder to second but a rare throwing error from Gonzales to Peterson at first allowed Utah Valley to score two and take the 8-6 lead. A walk to the next batter ended the night for Reyes as he left with the bases loaded before Matthew Munden worked out of threat.
New Mexico State retook the lead in the eighth inning, scoring three runs on three hits. That frame started with back-to-back hits from Jimenez and Joey Ortiz. Gonzales battled back down 0-2 to get a full count before lacing a ball into right center to score Jimenez.
After a pitching change from UVU, Carranza lifted a high fly-ball to left and scored Ortiz on the sac-fly. A wild pitch and walk then put runners on the corners for Ehnes, who reached on a fielder’s choice and plated the go-ahead run in Ortiz before Mingus flied out to end the inning on top 9-8.
Munden had a great start to the bottom half of that frame, fanning his first two batters before Mick Madsen tied things up with a solo shot to right field, 9-9. After walking the next two batters, Gonzales made a great play on a ball hit up the middle on the next UVU at-bat and saved a run from scoring before Christopher Barraza induced a flyball to end the inning and keep it tied 9-9.
Williams got on base with a long single to center after Haupt struck out but it wasn’t enough as UVU’s Jesse Schmitt got Ortiz to hit into a fielder’s choice for the final out.
Keaton Graf came into to work the ninth for Barraza and struggled, giving up a four-pitch walk to the leadoff batter before Eastburn reached on the second throwing error of the night from Gonzales. UVU then loaded the bases when Alexander Marco laid a sac-bunt that Williams couldn’t get to Mingus in time at third.
After a huge punchout for Graf to set up the double play, Madsen knocked in the game-winning run on a 2-0 pitch through the left side to tie the series up at 1-1.
NM State’s two through five batters combined for eight of the team’s runs while the top three batters accounted for seven of the 13 hits. Peterson led the team with a three RBI while Ortiz led the team with three knocks on the night while scoring two.
Series finale between the Aggies and Wolverines will take place this Saturday, April 20, at UCCU Ballpark with first pitch slated for Noon (MT) on the WAC Digital Network.