LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State baseball team will host its second four-game series to open up the 2014 campaign this weekend. The Aggies will play four games versus Southern Illinois University (SIU)-Edwardsville at Presley Askew Field.
Game one is slated for Friday, Feb. 21, beginning at 6:05 p.m. (MT). Saturday will feature a doubleheader versus the Cougars with the first game scheduled to begin at 1:05 p.m. and game two tentatively scheduled for a 5:05 p.m. start or 30 minutes after game one. The series finale will be on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 1:05 p.m.
NM State enters the week at 3-1 after facing St. Mary’s (Calif.) during the first series of the season. The Aggies won the first three games over the Gaels before dropping the series finale on Sunday.
SIU-Edwardsville comes to Las Cruces with an 0-3 record after losing three-straight at nationally-ranked Wichita State. This will be the first-ever meeting between the Aggies and Cougars.
NM State is coming off an interesting weekend that saw them play a seven-inning and eight-inning game to go along with a couple of regular nine-inning games. The Aggies started the series versus St. Mary’s with a 4-2 victory in a game that saw NM State only collect three hits.
The Aggies would then convincingly win the first game of a doubleheader, 14-2, in seven innings before again winning a close two-run game in the nightcap, 8-6. The final game of the four-game series versus the Gaels would see NM State pick up its first loss of the season, 3-8, in a game that was stopped after eight innings due to travel-time constraints for St. Mary’s.
The Aggie bats were impressive to start the season with five NM State hitters ending the first series batting above .300, and three hitting above .400. The Aggies scored a total of 29 runs while only allowing 18. NM State had a total of 35 hits including six doubles, four home runs and 29 RBIs.
Senior first baseman Kris Koerper and junior Michael Paulson will enter this weekend’s action leading the Aggie squad in hitting, each with a .462 batting average. Sophomore third baseman Derek Umphres is right behind, hitting .429. All three Aggies had six hits throughout the first weekend of play.
Koerper leads NM State and the Western Athletic Conference with eight RBIs. Aggie redshirt sophomore Ryan Wagner is right behind with seven RBIs.
Wagner was added to the starting lineup during the final three games versus St. Mary’s due to an injury to outfielder Joe Koerper. All Wagner did during those three games was hit .364 with his seven RBIs, a double and a team-leading two home runs, which also ties him for the WAC lead. Umphres and junior center fielder Kyle Young also homered for NM State against the Gaels.
The Aggie pitching staff also looked impressive during the first weekend of play. Although the starters finished with a 1-1 record, three of the four pitched at least 4.2 innings and none allowed more than three earned runs.
Senior left-hander Chris Bradley kicked off the season for NM State, pitching into the fifth inning while only allowing four hits and two runs.
Perhaps the best showing of the weekend for the pitching staff was senior Kyle Kilgore’s start during game two of the series. The right-hander went five complete innings, only allowing two hits and no runs en route to picking up his first victory of the season.
Sophomore reliever Zach Freeman picked up the other victory for the Aggies. Freeman pitched 2.2 innings in relief during game three only allowing one earned run while striking out five batters.
Bradley and reliever Billy Conard also had five strikeouts throughout the weekend, but the NM State strikeouts lead belongs to Aggie left-hander Robert Kraft who finished with six strikeouts in 4.2 innings after starting game three.
After completing the series with SIU-Edwardsville, NM State will continue its 12-game homestand to open the season with a four-game series versus Oakland.