The New Mexico State baseball team opened its 2019 season against Texas Southern at Presley Askew Field on Friday night. An offensive outburst with the team recording five home runs and middle infielders Joey Ortiz and Nick Gonzales combining to go 10-for-10 with nine runs batted in led the Aggies to a 20-2 win over the Tigers.
On the mound to open the season for NM State (1-0) was 2019 Western Athletic Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year Brock Whittlesey. The senior right-hander was countered by Texas Southern’s (0-1) Preseason Southwestern Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year Aron Solis.
Despite allowing two runners to reach base in the top half of Whittlesey held the opposition scoreless ending the frame with his first strikeout of the year. Then the Aggie bats got on the board in the bottom of the first when Ortiz had a one-out blast over the left field wall for a solo shot to give the Crimson & White an early 1-0 lead.
After each hurler held the opposing bats scoreless in the second inning, NM State got going again at the plate in the bottom of the third. The first hit of the inning was a single through the left side by Eric Mingus. A passed ball then moved the runner to second before Logan Bottrell laced a double to left center to bring one run home. Another passed ball put Bottrell on third base and Ortiz was able to get him across the plate with an RBI single to give the Aggies a 3-0 lead that lasted into the fifth.
The Tigers were able to get on the board and cut into the Aggies lead in the top half of the fifth with a two-out rally. With runners on the corners, the Tigers laid down a bunt that scored the first run of the game for the opposition. Then the next batter ripped a single through the left side to score another two-out run and put the Aggies lead at just 3-2.
This was the closest NM State would allow TSU to get, however, adding to the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Joey Ortiz got on base with a single to right and the next batter, Nick Gonzales, proceeded to crush a home run to centerfield that gave the team a 5-2 advantage.
Then in the sixth, the Aggie bats had their most productive inning. The scoring opened with the first career home run as an Aggie for catcher Braden Williams, which was a two-run shot over the right field wall. After a walk put runners on first and second with just one out, Ortiz knocked an RBI single up the middle to put the lead at 8-2.
After Ortiz stole second base, the Aggies had two runners in scoring position and Gonzales was able to knock a single through the left side to bring both runners across the plate. This forced TSU to make a pitching change, but the reliever walked his first batter to put men on first and second. Then with two outs, Tristen Carranza laced a triple to left center to bring in both runs. A hit by pitch and a base on balls loaded the bags and another plunked batter brought the final run home of the frame to give NM State eight runs in the bottom of the sixth to make the lead 13-2.
The top of the seventh saw Ortiz lead off with a single to left and then Gonzales stepped into the batter’s box and added to his totals with his second home run of the night to expand the Aggies lead to 15-2. After a Bottrell walk, senior Caleb Henderson wanted to get into the home run club as he crushed a ball over the wall in centerfield for a 17-2 NM State lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Aggies added a few more runs to the board before it was all said and done. With the bases loaded and no outs, Logan Ehnes roped a single to left field to bring home a pair of runs. Then catcher Jason Bush stayed disciplined at the plate being hit with the bases loaded to bring home the final run of the evening that gave NM State its 20-2 victory.
At night’s end, Joey Ortiz and Nick Gonzales who each went 5-for-5, with Ortiz driving in 3 RBI and adding one home run and Gonzales adding 6 RBI with a pair of homers, led the Aggie offense. NM State’s 20 hits saw nine players record at least one base knock with five Aggies registering multiple hits.
Whittlesey recorded the victory in the season opener throwing for 6.0 innings with five strikeouts. After setting the program record for fielding percentage in 2018, the Aggie defense continued to roll with zero errors and turned two double plays.
The New Mexico State baseball team returns to the friendly confines of Presley Askew Field for a doubleheader with Texas Southern on Saturday, Feb. 16, beginning at 12:05 p.m. MT.