By: Derek Gonzalez
The New Mexico State baseball team has continued their hot start in conference play with a three-game sweep of the Northern Colorado Bears this past weekend inside Presley Askew Field.
NMSU won game one 10-3 and followed the win with a 7-4 victory on Saturday. In the series finale, the Aggies jumped out to a 5-0 first-inning lead and never allowed the Bears to threaten in the 6-2 win.
Brent Sakurai led off the bottom of the first inning with a single against UNC pitcher Aaron Hamilton. Austin Botello was walked after Joey Ortiz popped out, and NMSU perfectly executed a double steal to put both runners in scoring position.
Dan Hetzel converted on a sacrifice fly to score Sakurai to break the seal on the scoring for the Sunday matinee, and Tristen Carranza slapped a single up the middle to score Botello to double the Aggie lead to 2-0.
Catcher Mason Fishback closed out the first-inning scoring with a three-run home run off the scoreboard in left-center field to open the lead to 5-0.
NMSU (26-15, 11-1 WAC) decided to use a staff day in the game, meaning they would use the entire bullpen and leave it up the scorekeeper’s discretion as to who to award the win to. Andy Frakes got his second-career start for the Aggies and did a fantastic job managing the game and using his defense to get outs.
“We talked about picking each other up, and sometimes you are not going to have it (production) at the plate so we will need to pitch well and vice versa, but what an effort by Frakes,” NMSU head coach Brian Green said. “He brought it and we absolutely had to have it. We got that run in the eighth (inning) and it gave us some space. It was a great game for us and a great weekend for us.”
Frakes went 4.0 innings pitched and allowed only one earned run in 48 pitches. The senior side-winder is used to being brought out of the bullpen in later innings, and adapted to a new role and flourished to keep the Aggies rolling in WAC play.
Matt McHugh came in relief of Frakes and went 3.1 innings pitched and got out of a couple jams as the Bears (15-22, 4-8 WAC) tried to claw back into the game.
“You have to be able to win games when you aren’t hitting and we did that today and I am fired up about that,” Green said. “It was a great efoort from our guys and it shows them that there are different ways to win.”
NMSU will host Grand Canyon in a three-game series this weekend that will ultimately decide the WAC regular season champion. The first game is Friday at 6 p.m. at Presley Askew Field.