MESA, Ariz. –The No. 6 seeded New Mexico State baseball team defeated No. 5 Seattle U 7-3, on day two of the 2014 Western Athletic Conference Tournament, Thursday, May 22 at Cubs Park in Mesa, Ariz. The Aggies are now 22-30 on the year, as Seattle U finishes it season at 26-27 on the year and has yet to win a Division I post-season game.
Today’s win marks the first time NM State has won a WAC Tournament game in Mesa, Ariz. The last time the Aggies won a conference tournament game was when they defeated Texas-Arlington 4-3 in Prairie View, Texas during the 2013 tournament. The Aggies are now 5-12 all-time in WAC Tournament play.
Starting pitcher Billy Conard earned the win and is now 4-3 on the year after working 5.2 innings while striking out one batter and giving up only one run. Relief pitcher Riley Barr made his second appearance in as many days and got the one batter he faced to pop-out on the only pitch he threw. Freshman right-hander Zach Freeman earned the first save of his career working 3.0 innings, while striking out five batters and giving up two runs.
“I asked Riley Barr to give me a bridge and to give me an out. Billy [Conard] gutted it out and did great for us,” head coach Rocky Ward said “We turned two big-time double plays that helped us keep the momentum. We played good baseball today.”
The Aggies started the game holding Seattle U scoreless after the lead-off batter got aboard by being hit by a pitch. Catcher Taylor Noyer made a stellar throw in the first inning getting the league’s leader in stolen bases (Chase Fields) out at second base, which could have been the tone-setting play of the day.
NM State third baseman Dereck Umphres made a great defensive stop in the bottom of the fourth to start a 5-4-3 double play to get his team out of the inning. The Aggies got another double play in the bottom of the fifth inning after Seattle’s lead-off batter of the inning reached base safely on a fielding error. That double play was executed perfectly as first baseman Kristoffer Koerper picked up the groundball, threw a strike over to the shortstop at second base while pitcher Freeman made it over to cover first for the second out of the play. Seattle U was able to score a run after that to make it a 2-1 ballgame in favor of the Aggies.
Shortstop Kent Blackstone and Noyer, who hit in the No. 8 and 9 holes respectively, each had a 3-of-4 day at the plate and each scored two runs while Noyer also posted an RBI. The two sluggers assisted in giving their team a nice cushion in the eighth as Blackstone hit a lead-off triple and was brought in on a single to leftfield by Noyer. Noyer eventually crossed the plate on a throwing error by Seattle U and NM State had a 6-1 lead heading into the final inning of play.
The Redhawks made a pitching change for the ninth inning and senior Kyle Kilgore took advantage of the new pitcher to blast a homerun over the leftfield wall giving the Aggies a 7-1 lead. It was the first homerun of the 2014 WAC Tournament for any team participating. Seattle U scored two runs on a couple of singles but it wasn’t enough as the Aggies won 7-3.
The Aggies play at 12 p.m. (MT), Friday, May 23 in Mesa, Ariz. and are waiting to find out who they play. NM State will take on the lowest seed available of from the losers of games 4 and 5.