Courtesy of NMSU
HONOLULU – Hawai’i native Matt Loeffler held the University of Hawai’i (8-15) scoreless through seven innings guiding the New Mexico State baseball team (4-16-1) to a 5-3 victory at Les Murakami Stadium in Honolulu, Hawai’i, Saturday, March 22.
Loeffler got through 7.2 innings before he gave up three runs, two of which were earned, picking up his first win of the year in five starts. He is now 1-0 on the year while working a team-high 32.1 innings this season, totaling 16 strikeouts with a team-best 3.38 ERA. Closer Billy Conard earned his second save of the season working 1.1 innings on the night while striking out three consecutive Rainbow batters in the bottom of the ninth.
The Aggies were held scoreless in the first inning but exploded for four runs on six hits and one Rainbow error in the top of the second to gain momentum and allow Loeffler to be aggressive for the remainder of the game.
First baseman Michael Paulson started the second with a hard single up the middle and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by left fielder Jay Sheely. Designated hitter Cameron Haskins smashed a double to right field before catcher Lucas Martinez hit a single thru the right side. Third baseman Kyle Graf kept things going with a fielder’s choice while Martinez moved to second on a throwing error by the UH second baseman. Paulson, Haskins, Martinez and Graf would all score in the inning while No. 1 and 2 hole hitters Aaron Duran and Quinton Mack picked up RBIs on singles to left field.
“We hit the ball well tonight even though we had our hands full with the UH pitching staff. Our hitters were disciplined and I am proud of them,” said head coach Brian Green. “It’s been great to come back out here and go up against someone who gave me a good opportunity to learn. I have mixed emotions about this weekend and I am enjoying the battle against a competitive Hawai’i team.”
Haskins, who finished the night going 3-of-4 at the dish, got on base with a single in the top of the third and moved over to second when Martinez got on base for the second straight inning, this time via walk. When Graf got on base with a single, Haskins moved to third and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice by shortstop Dan Kennon, making it a 5-4 ball game. Kennon’s fielder’s choice was a dropped fly ball by the UH leftfielder, but an Aggie baserunner was thrown out at third. Because of the out, the play could not be considered an error.
After three runs scored in the bottom of the eighth, the Aggies added an insurance run in the top of the ninth with Mack scoring all the way from second base on a wild pitch giving NM State a 6-3 lead. Conard came in and sat down three straight Rainbow hitters via strikeouts, two swinging and one looking.
The Aggies wrap up the four-game series Sunday at 5:05 p.m. (MT) with live stats available online at www.NMStateSports.com. In game score updates are available on Twitter @NMStateAggies and @NMSU_Baseball.