SURPRISE, AZ - For the second straight afternoon at Surprise Stadium, it was New Mexico that got the better of Oregon State under the bright Arizona sunshine. The Lobos brought an aggressive approach to the plate and it paid off against Beaver starter Jake Thompson and the relievers that followed him on the mound.
New Mexico got going in the top of the second with their first two hitters getting aboard via a single and a double that landed just inside the right field line. Next up was Jared Holley, who hit the first pitch he saw to bring in the first run of the game. The following Lobo batter hit a sharp ground ball to third, but Michael Gretler stabbed it and threw home, beating Luis Gonzalez to the plate to chop down another run.
Much to the dismay of the pro-Beaver crowd, however, New Mexico wasn't done. A Cory Voss base hit to left field made the score 2-0, and a bad throw to first by Gretler allowed another run to come in. Thompson and Oregon State eventually got out of the inning, but their three runs would end up being all that was needed to take this one.
Thompson (throwing above) Gave Up Four Earned Runs And Took The Loss On Monday (credit: Connor Pelton)
The Beavers were able to cut into the lead in the bottom of the third thanks to freshman KJ Harrison, who has shown some flashes of Michael Conforto-like power so far this season. He stepped to the plate with two outs and runners on the corners and blasted the first pitch into deep right center field. It didn't leave the yard, but it was enough to score both runners and get Harrison to third. Billy King grounded out on the next at-bat, but enough damage was done to make it a ballgame again.
Harrison Is Congratulated After His 2 RBI Triple (credit: Connor Pelton)
New Mexico got the two runs back in the fifth. Thompson was chased from the game after issuing a walk and a hard hit single to open the frame. First baseman Carl Stajduhar then nailed a 1-1 breaking pitch off of reliever Drew Rasmussen, bringing home a crucial insurance run. The next batter then hit a hard ball towards Gretler at third, who forgot the number of outs and tried to turn a double play instead of going home to try and cut down the Lobo runner. Gretler's mistake allowed another run to score, putting New Mexico ahead 5-2 through five innings.
Oregon State employed its bend but don't break strategy over the next two innings. New Mexico loaded the bases in their half of the sixth but Rasmussen got Gonzalez to strike out swinging to end the threat. The combined efforts of Rasmussen and right-hander Mitch Hickey issued three walks in the seventh inning, but Hickey served up a perfect double play ball that went 4-6-3 to end the inning and keep the Beavers within striking distance.
They had a chance to tie the game, or at least pull closer, in the eighth, but a pair of crucial errors on the basepaths killed any chance of a comeback.
Catcher Dane Lund had already made a similar mistake earlier in the game, over-running second base and then getting thrown out as he tried to dive back to the bag. It would prove to just be a preview of things to come later.
Jeff Hendrix reached safely with one out on an error by the Lobo second baseman, and it looked like he would score on a double by Lund that rolled all the way to the fence in right field. The Beaver third base coach, however, stopped Hendrix after he rounded third, much to the chagrin of head coach Pat Casey.
It would prove to be a costly decision as the next batter, Harrison, lined out to second. Lund, for the second time on the afternoon, was caught a few steps off the base, and New Mexico's second baseman had no problem stepping on the bag to finish the double play, and the inning.
DH Billy King Warms Up Before Leading Off The Ninth Inning (credit: Connor Pelton)
Oregon State went quietly in the ninth inning, giving New Mexico the 5-2 win. The Lobos improved to 3-1 with the victory while the Beavers dropped to 2-2. Next up is a meeting with Oklahoma State on the same field Thursday afternoon for the start of the Pac-12/Big 12 challenge.