By Derek Gonzales
The New Mexico State baseball team is coming off a nine-game road trip in what head coach Brian Green called the “gauntlet” part of this team’s schedule, as they faced quality programs in Arizona, Baylor, San Diego, and UC Riverside. They were able to come back to Las Cruces with a 12-10 overall record, in which the 12 wins are more than they had all of last year.
While they do lead the WAC in wins thus far, they faced a stiff test in their WAC conference series opener in the Chicago State Cougars. They opened up the series on Thursday evening with a convincing 17-5 win in seven innings at Presley Askew Field.
Junior right-hander Matthew McHugh took the mound for the Aggies and did a solid job settling down into the game after allowing a couple runs in the first inning and another run in the second. After the second inning, he didn’t allow Chicago State (5-14) to score another run, and was able to reach the five-inning plateau that Coach Green sets for his starting pitchers in mid-week games.
“Matt (McHugh) didn’t have his best stuff, but he grinded for the team, so I was extremely proud of him for going out there and performing without much of a rhythm,” says Green.
Offense was the key for NM State in this game, and they blew the game open early with five runs in each of the first two innings. The first six Aggie batters of the day reached base before Cougar starter Jake Perkins could record an out. NM State, who is second in the conference in batting average at .273, hit a remarkable 19-35 from the plate, which is a .543 percentage.
“Our guys were aggressive early in the count, but I was proud of us just having a plan and competing. You talk about the same things all the time and you just hope to see it, and tonight was a good night for us offensively,” says Green.
Eight of the nine Aggie starters had multiple hits, with third baseman Trey Stine leading the team with five RBIs on the evening. Other gaudy numbers offensively included the team going 12-19 with runners in scoring position, and 8-10 with runners on third base with less than two outs.
“These last few days of practice have really been a grind, and we knew we were going to see a left-handed pitcher today, and since we’ve faced so many already, we just applied the experiences we’ve had so far and our offense really came alive tonight,” says Stine. “Starting off WAC play at home is awesome. Tonight gave us confidence, and after being on the road so much, it begins to wear your body and mind down. Being able to practice and play at home really helps reset the mind because nothing beats playing here at home.”
NM State (13-10) will look for take the second game of the three games series on Friday six p.m. at Presley Askew Field, while the series finale will be Saturday at 11 a.m.
Derek Gonzales can be reached at email@example.com
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