LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The New Mexico State baseball team closed out the four-game series against La Salle in the finale on Sunday at Presley Askew Field. The Aggies were able to complete the 3-1 series victory with a 16-5 win in the final game, highlighted by seven extra-base hits and four multi-run innings.
In the series finale, Chance Hroch got the start for NM State (14-3) and cruised early, countering La Salle starter Aidan Frye who did not have as much success early on. Following a one-two-three inning for Hroch in the opening frame, the Aggie offense got multiple runs on the board in the bottom of the first.
Logan Bottrell led off the inning with a triple to the wall in left center and then an error on a Joey Ortiz grounder left runners on the corners. A fielder’s choice in the next at-bat scored the man from third for a 1-0 Aggie lead. Then an infield grounder saw a throwing error score one run and leave a man on third. Tristan Peterson took advantage of the runner in scoring positon with an RBI single to right. Two batters later, runners were on first and third when Noah Haupt laced a single through the left side to score one more run and give the Crimson & White a 4-0 lead after one.
Neither side was able to score in the second, then the opposition got on the board in the top of the third. With two outs, the Explorers had runners on the corners and an error on a play in the infield brought home La Salle’s first two runs of the game. This left a runner on second and a single through the right side brought home another run to put the NM State lead at 4-3 that lasted through three.
The Aggies expanded upon their lead behind the bat of Ortiz in the bottom of the fourth inning. With no runners on and two outs, the shortstop turned on a ball that he launched over the wall in left center for a solo home run to put the Aggies ahead 5-3.
In the sixth inning, each squad got on the board to keep the game close. The top half saw a single, followed by an error in the next at-bat put men on first and second with no outs. Then an RBI single through the right side cut into the NM State lead that now stood at 5-4.
The Crimson & White looked to expand this lead in the bottom of the sixth. There was one out and the Aggies had one runner on. Then Ortiz stepped to the dish to add to his impressive numbers when he mashed a two-run home run to left field for a 7-4 Aggie lead.
La Salle looked to chip away at this deficit in the seventh. The Explorers saw a single, followed by a wild pitch and infield groundout put the runner 90 feet from home plate. Then an infield single scored the run and the NM State lead stood at 7-5.
This was the closest the opposition would get, however, as NM State closed out its final two innings with back-to-back multi-run frames. In the bottom of the seventh, the Aggies had two men on and Jason Bush capitalized with his first home run of the season for a three-run shot to put the team ahead 10-5.
To add some insurance runs, NM State then had its highest scoring frame in the bottom of the eighth. The first run came when Tristen Carranza scored the man from third with an RBI single up the middle. The Explorers then went to the bullpen in an effort to stop the run production. Unfortunately, the reliever walked his first batter and hit the second one to load the bases with no outs. Brenden Williams then knocked a single to left to bring in one run and put the Crimson & White ahead 13-5.
This left men on first and second when Bush roped a single to the gap in left to bring home another run and leave runners on the corners with no outs. Eric Mingus proceeded to loft a sacrifice fly to centerfield that brought in the fifth run of the inning. Then to close out the scoring, Nick Gonzales sent an RBI single up the middle to put the Aggies ahead 16-5.
The eleven-run lead stood as the final score when the NM State defense shut down the Explorers in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win and series victory. After tossing 5.0 innings with five punch-outs, Hroch (4-0) picked up the win on the mound to remain undefeated.
On the offensive side the Aggies combined for 21 hits, led by Ortiz who finished 3-for-6 with two home runs and three runs batted in and Bush who went 2-for-5 with one homer and four RBI.
The New Mexico State baseball team looks to keep the momentum rolling as the team hits the road to take on Arizona State on Wednesday, March 13, followed by a three-game series in Lincoln, Neb. to take on Nebraska, March 15-17.