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Aggie Baseball Brings Big Game Three Victory in Season-Opening Series

Released by Panhandle State Sports Information on 01/29/2018 Senior Adrian Lopez helped the Aggies secure their first win of the season in game three of their season-opener against the University of Saint Mary.-Taylor Jacobson photoSenior Adrian Lopez helped the Aggies secure their first win of the season in game three of their season-opener against the University of Saint Mary.-Taylor Jacobson photo

Goodwell, Okla.—The Panhandle State baseball team hosted a season-opener series against the University of Saint Mary this weekend, and notched their first win of the season with an 18-3 run-rule performance in game three on Sunday.

Although Saturday's double-header resulted in two losses for the home team (7-5, 12-5), the Aggies held fans' excitement throughout both seven-inning matchups. Senior Josh Casillas took the mound in game one and kept batters quiet, allowing just one hit in the first three innings of play. The Spires brought in one run in the top of the fourth which was answered by Panhandle State in the bottom of the inning. Junior Jared Mayeda hit an RBI single down the left line to score leadoff hitter Nate Kelly. Solid fielding from the Aggies left the score tied at 1-1 through the fifth inning.

Two errors in the sixth shifted the score in favor of the Spires as USM scored six runs on Casillas' watch. Freshman Colby Fuller came in with two outs and did his job, allowing zero hits over his 1.1 inning stint. Panhandle State focused on a comeback rally in the bottom of the seventh, down by six runs (7-1). With a fresh pitcher in for the Spires, Mayeda stepped up with a leadoff single and Jordan Smith subbed as a pinch runner at first. The following three Aggie batters were walked, loading the bases and bringing in Smith for one run with no outs on the board.

The Spires sent in Matt Weis to close out the inning, but two wild pitches and two walked batters sent through two more runs for Panhandle State. With one out and bases loaded, the Aggies grounded into a double play to end the inning; one run was scored giving Weis the two-run save. Casillas took the loss for the Aggies and starting pitcher Zack Novice collected his first win of the season for USM.

Game two got off to a fast start for the Spires who tallied two runs in the first inning and one each in innings two through four. Pitcher Corey Ley led off for the Aggies and threw five innings until freshman left-hander Garrison Armstrong entered in the sixth. The Aggies opened scoring with two RBI triples in the bottom of the second as big hits from Pierce Edwards and Derek Stallworth brought in one run apiece. Panhandle pulled ahead 5-4 in the third with three runs scored on two RBI singles (Mayeda, Edwards) and an RBI triple off the bat Jacob Dean.

Saint Mary evened the score with one run off a triple in the fourth inning. Ley put three up/three down in the fifth to hold the score at 5-5. Armstrong took the mound at the start of the sixth and threw a quick ground-out off the first batter. A base on balls was followed by a triple and a double which led to two RBI for the Spires. Four more runs came through on two singles and a double, sending in sophomore Charles Marini to pitch for Armstrong. Marini finished out the inning with zero runs to his name. The Aggies were held scoreless through the final four innings of game two and the Spires would score one last run, after Marini was relieved by Jeremy Norris in the seventh. Weis earned the win for Saint Mary and Armstrong took his first loss for Panhandle.

Sunday's nine-inning contest started with senior Adrian Lopez pitching his first game of the season. Lopez allowed one run in the first inning and went on to hold the Spires scoreless through the fourth. The Aggies sent through their first two runs of the day in the bottom of the second to gain the lead, which they would not relinquish through the remaining innings.

Victory was in sight as the Aggies put up 12 runs in the fourth, kicked off by a two-run double from Juan Sanchez. A three-run triple by Kasey Leatherwood was followed up with a ground-out single by Gerson Padilla. Freshman Frederick Frye put the icing on the cake with a three-run homer to left-center. Sanchez' second at-bat produced an RBI triple followed up by runs sent in on a single by Kelly and a double from Leatherwood.

The Spires put up two runs in the fifth prompting a pitching change by Panhandle State. Cesar Gomez came in for Lopez and kept the slate clean with just one hit and one base on balls over his two innings of work. Two triples (Stallworth, Leatherwood) and two singles (Kelly, Padilla) from the Aggies added four more runs to the board in the bottom of the sixth. The game was cut short in the top of the seventh as the Spires were contained by Gomez and the Aggie defense.

For the weekend Nate Kelly emerged as the leading batter with a .700 average over the three-game stint; Kelly went 7-10 at the plate, taking eight total bases and two RBI. Kasey Leatherwood went 3-3 in his two appearances and took eight bases on a double and two triples with a 2.667 slugging percentage. Lopez led on the mound with a 3.60 ERA over five innings of work; he totaled five strikeouts in game three. The Aggies had four fielding errors on the weekend.

First year head coach Jason LaRocque is happy to have his first series under the belt commenting, "I think during your first series you expect a few hiccups, and I think games one and two we were pretty tight and lost sight a little bit of the things we do well. We're still finding our best recipe to be successful. I think we have a talented team and we play to our strengths." LaRocque looks ahead with confidence in his team adding, "Our team has a resiliency. We saw it at the end of game one and the middle of game two, and by game three, failure to them wasn't an option."

He expounded on the series finale, "In game three our guys were loose, the bats woke up, and we got back to playing our game. The guys came ready to play and wanted to make a statement, and I think they did just that. We were really aggressive at the plate, made plays behind our pitching staff and they didn't let up for a pitch." Knowing there is a long season ahead, LaRocque closed by stating, "We didn't hang our hat on the win though; as soon as the game was over we embraced the moment, but knew we had to get right back at it to prepare for this weekend."

Panhandle State Baseball owns a 1-2 record to start the season and start a four-game road stretch this week with a three-game series at Southern Nazarene Feb. 2-3 followed by a nine-inning matchup against Eastern New Mexico on Tuesday, Feb. 6. The team returns home for a single nine-inning contest against Pitt State on Thursday, Feb. 8.

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