LAS CRUCES, NM—NM State edged CSU Bakersfield 9-8 Thursday night to open the Western Athletic Conference baseball series between the two clubs.
Three Mason Fishback passed balls led to Andrew Penner scoring CSUB's opening run in the top of the first. LJ Hatch tied the game in the bottom of the first when he homered to left with one out. Two batters later, Fishback's two-run home run gave the Aggies the lead.
Joey Ortiz's RBI double in the bottom of the second increased the NM State lead to three. David Metzgar cut the Aggies' lead in half with a RBI single in the top of the third. CSUB would loaded the bases later in the inning. Fishback's fourth passed ball of the game allowed Penner to score. With runners on second and third, Max Carter was hit by a pitch a 3-2 count to load the bases. Cole Valletta popped out to short keep the score at 4-3.
NMSU added to the advantage in the fourth when Ortiz's single plated Marcus Still. Brent Sakurai added a triple that scored Ortiz to create a 6-3 game. The Aggies added a run in the fifth to jump out to a four-run lead once again. Junior Felix's two-out, two-RBI double in the sixth chased NMSU starter Kyle Bradish. On the second pitch from Aggie reliever Matthew McHugh, Mark Pena singled to left to drive in Felix. Pena stole second and came around to tie the game on Penner's third hit of the game, a single to left. Metzgar walked. The Aggies got out of the inning when Grotjohn flew out to left.
Isaiah Moten, who relieved Carter in the fifth, hit Greg Popylisen to begin the NM State sixth. Ortiz's sac bunt advanced Popylisen to second. He scored on a Sakurai single. Popylisen's home run in the bottom of the eighth provided an insurance run for the Aggies.
Ryan Grotjohn singled off NM State closer Ruger Rodriguez to begin the top of the ninth. Mahlik Jones reached on an error by Hatch, the NMSU shortstop. The error allowed Grotjohn advance to third. Fishback's sixth passed ball of the game resulted in Grotjohn scoring as Jones moved to second. Carter has hit by a pitch for the second time in the game.
Jake Ortega pinch hit for Valletta. Rodriguez got Ortega to ground into a 6-4 fielder's choice for the first out. Jones made it to third safely on the play. Ortega stole second to put runners at second and third for pinch hitter, Sergio Robles. Robles worked Rodriguez's count to 3-2 before striking out. Felix flew out to left to end the game.
"We did a nice job of competing every pitch," said CSUB interim head coach Jeremy Beard. "We never gave in and we learned a lot about that ball club tonight. We had our chances and came up short. They hit some balls up in the wind current early before it died down and put some runs up early that proved to be the difference."
Penner recorded three of the eighth CSUB hits. Five of the nine NMSU starters had two hits. The series between CSUB (28-21, 13-9 WAC) and NMSU (34-19, 18-4 WAC) continues Friday at 6 p.m. (MT).