By Derek Gonzales
With the New Mexico State baseball team trailing WAC foe Sacramento State by two games in the conference standings, it made this weekend’s series all the more important. The Aggies were able to take the first game of the three-game series 14-4 in eight innings on Friday night at Presley Askew Field.
NM State (23-18, 11-5 WAC) pounded out six hits in just the first two innings off of Sacramento State starter Sam Long and the visiting Hornets (25-16, 12-4 WAC).
The Aggies came out in the bottom of the first and got things started with a Daniel Johnson (4 for 5, three RBI’s, HR) single. Outfielder Greg Popylisen (2 for 5, two doubles, RBI) followed suit with a double in the alley to put himself and Johnson in scoring position with no outs. Dan Hetzel (1 for 5, RBI) was able to connect on the first pitch he saw from Long and he brought in Johnson to push the Aggies out to a 1-0 lead.
Sacramento State came back in at the top of the second inning with a Brandon Hunley home-run to right field off of Aggie starter Marcel Renteria. It knotted the score at one, but the the Aggies would take control after that.
In the bottom of the second inning, third-baseman Trey Stine went up to the plate after Long struck out Aggie catcher Mason Fishback. Stine wasted no time, and he sent the first pitch over the right-field fence for a solo home-run. It was his fourth of the season and it sent the Aggies back into the lead at 2-1. Popylisen was back up at the plate two batters later, and he doubled to right-center on an 0-2 pitch to score the speedy Johnson from first to extend the lead to 3-1.
After Sacramento State tacked on a run in the top of the third inning, the Aggies went to the bottom of the inning and blew the game open. Austin Botello (1 for 4, two runs) began the inning with a walk.
Shortstop L.J. Hatch then doubled to put runners in scoring position for Fishback. Fishback redeemed himself after the strikeout earlier and took Long deep to right-field for a three-run home-run. Stine and Brent Sakurai were able to reach base following the home-run, and Johnson crushed a three-run home-run of his own to right-field to put NM State comfortably ahead at 9-2.
Renteria was outstanding on Friday night and got his fourth win of the year. He went 7.2 innings, striking out seven batters on a whopping 121 pitches. He threw 71 pitches for strikes, and did not let Sacramento State threaten after the Aggies had the six-run third inning.
NM State was firing on all cylinders throughout the game, as they scored at least one run in six different innings. They hit .462 as a team and hit 6 for 15 when runners were in scoring position. The 14 runs were the most they’ve scored in the month of April and it came at a great time, as the Aggies came into the series having lost six out of their last seven.
The Aggies look to win the series tomorrow as they will host the Hornets at one p.m. at Presley Askew Field. The series finale will be Sunday at noon.
Derek Gonzales can be reached at email@example.com
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