New Mexico State stumbles in series opener against GCU


Mitchell Allred

The Aggies fall out of a four-way tie for first place in the WAC with Friday night’s loss to Grand Canyon, but can make up ground in tomorrow afternoon’s rematch.

New Mexico State baseball knew it was going to be a grinder coming into this series against Grand Canyon, and that was exactly the case Friday night, with the Aggies falling to the Lopes by a score of 7-4.

The nation’s leaders in batting average struggled to get anything going at the plate, as the Lopes held the NM State (20-8, 4-3 WAC) hitless all the way up until the fifth inning.

GCU (17-12, 5-2 WAC) was able to put the ball into play early on, including two home runs in the fifth to go up 3-0, and maintain it throughout despite not taking full advantage of their opportunities, ending the game with 11 runners left on base, 11 hits and three errors.

NM State starter Brock Whittlesey threw seven strikeouts but gave up four free bases to the Lopes that eventually came back to hurt him (five innings pitched with three walks and one hit batter), going well over 100 pitches on the night.

Lopes’ starter Kade Mechals (7-1) came into the game with an outstanding ERA of 1.91. The junior has gone at least six innings in all of his appearances this season – going six innings tonight with four strikeouts and 65 of his 110 total pitches being called strikes. NM State was able to rattle Mechals in the fifth (scoring 3 earned runs), but the rest of his innings pitched were smooth-sailing.

The well-noted “punch-back inning” that head coach Brian Green constantly preaches to his team came in the bottom of the fifth for the Aggies. Back-to-back home runs by NM State knotted things up at 3 runs apiece as a result of a two-run homer by Logan Ehnes (1-of-4, two RBIs and one homer) and was immediately followed by a solo shot past the centerfield wall by Eric Mingus (1-of-3, one RBI and one home run).

Those two home runs put the Aggies at 53 total dingers on the year, that being good enough for second place in the nation in the home run’s category.

The offense was pretty barren excluding the fifth — Green’s team only had four hits on the day, stranding six runners and committing four errors.

GCU would take advantage of the short outing by Whittlesey, scoring four more runs off the Aggie bullpen – scoring in four straight frames to extend their lead to 7-4 entering the ninth.

Four WAC teams came into this weekend knotted at 4-2 in conference play. GCU will now join UTRGV at 5-2 in WAC play, but a chance for NM State to avenge tonight’s loss coming tomorrow as the two teams square off for game two of three.

“The WAC is certainly better, top to bottom the competitiveness of the league is extremely there,” Green said. “It’s week three, GCU has won the league –two or three out of the last four years. They’ve been a rival of ours, I know that they feel the same way about us –it’s early, but yeah it’s a real test early on.”

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