EDINBURG, Texas – The New Mexico State baseball team picked up its first Western Athletic Conference win of the season on Saturday night as the Aggies beat Texas-Pan American, 7-4, at Edinburg Baseball Stadium.
Four runs in the second inning and three in the sixth were enough to give the Aggies their ninth win of the season as they improve to 9-13 while the Broncs fall to 11-14. Both teams are now 1-1 in WAC play.
Each team finished with seven hits on the night, but five UTPA errors proved costly and helped NM State, who had none, win just its second road game of the season and break a four-game losing streak.
Sophomores Joe Koerper and Kevin Carswell each had two hits to lead the Aggies. Carswell, who made the start at catcher, finished 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored.
NM State starter Billy Conard pitched into the fifth inning, giving up four runs on five hits. But it was Aggie right-hander Zach Freeman who was the star of the night on the mound. Freeman came into the game in the fifth and immediately got a strikeout to end the inning. He would proceed to pitch the next three innings without allowing a single hit or run. Freeman picked up the win to go to .500 on the season at 2-2.
The Aggies kicked off the scoring with four runs in the top half of the second inning. First baseman Kris Koerper led off the inning by advancing to first after being hit by a pitch. One batter later his younger brother Joe singled to left field and junior Kyle Graf followed with a walk to load the bases.
Carswell then marked his two RBIs after hitting a single up the middle to bring in both Koerper brothers. NM State would a couple more runs in the inning after the Broncs committed their first of five errors.
UTPA broke into the scoring column in the fourth after a home run by senior Alberto Morales off of Conard made it 4-1. The Broncs would then tie the game in the bottom of the fifth with three more runs. Conard would walk a batter, hit another and allow a single to load the bases with two outs. UTPA outfielder Alex Howe would then come up and hit a bases-clearing double to drive Conard out of the game.
With the lead run at second and Morales, who had just hit a long ball the previous inning, up to bat, Aggie head coach Rocky Ward called on Freeman, who delivered by striking out Morales swinging.
NM State immediately responded to the Broncs’ three runs with three runs of its own during the top half of the sixth inning, although UTPA had a big hand in the Aggie runs. The Aggies loaded the bases with two singles and a walk before the Broncs committed two more errors to give NM State more unearned runs and a 7-4 lead it would not relinquish.
Freeman, meanwhile, sat down UTPA in order in the sixth inning and also pitched a hitless seventh and eighth inning before handing over the reigns to closer Trey Gonzales in the ninth for the final three outs. Gonzales did allow a couple of hits in the final frame, but also struck out three Broncs’ batters for the final three outs en route to picking up his fourth save of the season.
The Aggies and Broncs will now play the rubber match of the series on Sunday, March 23. Gametime is set for high noon (MDT) at Edinburg Baseball Stadium. Fans in Las Cruces can catch the action live over the radio airwaves on KSNM 570 AM with Jeff Mathews on the call.