By: Derek E. Gonzales
LAS CRUCES- After a grueling stretch of baseball that included playing 14 out of their last 15 games away from Presley Askew Field, the New Mexico State Aggie baseball team returned to the friendly confines only to find the No. 6 ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders awaiting them. NMSU dug themselves a deep hole by allowing six first-inning runs (five of which came before an out was recorded) to the Red Raiders and never recovered in a 15-4 loss.
Pitcher Chris Kucko got the start for the Aggies and was unable to register an out against the potent TTU offense. The first three batters all reached base to load them up early for the Red Raiders (26-6), and the first run of the day came from a walk of first baseman Hunter Hargrove, scoring lead-off man Grant Little from third. The next batter, Michael Borglund, doubled to right-center field to score Josh Jung and Michael Davis to push the lead to 3-0. Kucko gave up a single to the next batter Orlando Garcia that scored another two runs and was pulled from the contest after that with the Aggies down 5-0.
Senior pitcher Andy Frakes was called in to relieve Kucko and was able to get out of the jam while conceding just one more run in the inning.
NMSU (17-13) did show some positive flashes against a team that could very well be hosting a Super Regional come NCAA Tournament time. After the first half inning by the Red Raiders that could take the fight out of some teams, the Aggie offense came back in the bottom of the first inning and cut into the lead. With two outs, Dan Hetzel lined a triple out to left field, scoring third baseman Joey Ortiz to put the Aggies on the scoreboard.
Cutting the lead to five would be as close as the Aggies could get, as TTU would go on to have four other innings of scoring multiple runs against a platoon of Aggie pitchers. Mid-week games present a challenge for head coach Brian Green because how he chooses to use the pitching staff for mid-week game could dictate the effectiveness of his unit for the three-game series that tends to follow that upcoming weekend.
“We need to have a quick memory and our coaches are
excited to get back to work and go after WAC play again.”
“It is about winning the league and we burned some of our weekend pitching (in mid-week games) last year and we have not wanted to do that this year,” Green said.
Ortiz had a productive afternoon from the third spot in the order, going 4-for-5 and scoring twice. Hetzel, Austin Botello, reigning WAC Hitter of the Week Tristen Carranza and Brent Sakurai all recorded an RBI each, which speaks to the balance that the Aggies have in their lineup.
After sweeping Seattle U to being conference play, the Aggies will have returned to the ‘Skew for a three-game series with WAC foe UT-Rio Grande Valley. The team will now head on the road to face Sacramento State Thursday, Friday and Saturday before having to take another dip out of conference play to face the Red Raiders again, this time in Midland, Texas on April 18.