It’s mid-February, and that means college baseball season is officially here.
The Aggies hosted the Towson Tigers to open the 2018 season. Due to heavy rain, the first game of the series was moved from Friday to Saturday for a doubleheader. Playing three games in two days is never easy, but the Aggies showed up to play, winning two out of three.
The bats came to life immediately. In the bottom of the first inning in the first game of the year, the Aggies loaded the bases with no outs for cleanup hitter Tristen Carranza. Carranza took Towson starter Michael Adams deep to left field for a grand slam to give the Aggies an early 4-0 lead. Later, Carranza blasted another home run to left field, this time a two-run shot. He finished the game with eight RBIs. The Aggies scored 11 runs in the fifth inning, and five runs in the first and fourth innings. They won the season opener by a score of 24-4.
Preseason WAC Pitcher of the Year, Kyle Bradish of New Mexico State, lived up to the hype that surrounded him over the offseason. Through five and a third innings, he struck out 11, walked two, and gave up two hits and no runs. With the Aggies ahead 23-0 in the sixth inning, Bradish was pulled. In a closer game, his start almost certainly would have lasted a few more innings.
Later, Towson would strike back. They split the doubleheader, winning the second game 11-6. Justin Dehn made his debut on the mound for New Mexico State after transferring from College of the Canyons in California. Dehn was cruising right along until the third inning, when Richie Palacios took him deep to right field to break a scoreless tie in the top of the third inning. After the Aggies got two runs back in the bottom of the third, Towson scored seven runs in the top of the sixth.
David Marriggi earned the win for the Tigers. He pitched five innings, gave up two runs, four hits, struck out five and walked only two. Justin Dehn took the loss. He tossed five and a third innings, gave up eight runs off six hits, struck out three and walked one.
On Sunday the rubber match went to the Aggies. Once again, the offense got started right off the bat. They pushed across eight runs in the first frame. They accumulated five more runs throughout the game and would get the win by a score of 13-3. Center fielder Marcus Still went 4-4 and had three RBIs.
Jonathan Groff is a returning starting pitcher for New Mexico State from 2017. He took the mound for his first time in 2018. He picked up the win as he struck out six, walked one, and gave up just two hits and no runs. His opponent, Alex Caus, lasted just a third of an inning. He only gave up one hit, but the Aggies showed great patience by drawing four walks.
Brian Green is in his fourth year as the head coach of New Mexico State. Last season, his team went 35-22 overall and lost to CSU Bakersfield in the WAC Tournament. Throughout this series, he was able to sprinkle in players, many of them newcomers, who may not get much playing time this season.
Freshman relief pitcher Kyle Wullenweber made his debut by pitching a perfect ninth inning in game one. Brothers Braden and Brenden Williams both got significant playing time in game one, with Braden starting the third game as catcher. Other newbies like Noah Haupt, Eric Mingus, Logan Ehnes and Nick Gonzales all got plate appearances.
“The opening day can’t go any better than that, where you’re able to get just about everybody into the game,” Green said.
After the series, Green spoke on what he liked about his team’s efforts over the weekend.
“We got two out of three outstanding pitching performances. That was an absolute positive. Offensively, obviously, we were able to put up some quality at-bats and we scored a bunch of runs in two of the three games. … All in all, it’s a pretty good first weekend.”
Redshirt senior Trey Stine of New Mexico State missed virtually all last season. He tore his ACL in the second game of the year against Bryant. Aggie Caleb Henderson also missed last season with a knee injury. Green said that it was nice to see them back on the field. Stine went 4-12 with three RBIs over the weekend. Henderson also played well, going 3-13 with three RBIs.
The Aggies will head to Lubbock, Texas, to play No. 3 Texas Tech. Green said the starter for that game will be announced later.
“They’re a great opponent, a top ten opponent. We’ll go to their place. They’ll have a nice crowd, they got a great program. It’ll be a great challenge for us and a great opportunity,” Green said.
There is no doubt the Red Raiders will be a much tougher opponent than Towson was. Last season the Aggies lost to Texas Tech all three times they faced off.