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Aggies Come Out On Top Over Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds

By Alyssa Fox on 02/07/2018 Freshman pitcher Garrison Armstrong lived up to his namesake lasting five innings at ENMU.-Taylor Jacobson photo Freshman pitcher Garrison Armstrong lived up to his namesake lasting five innings at ENMU.-Taylor Jacobson photo

Portales, N.M.—A quick turnaround following the series against SNU had the Aggies traveling to Portales, N.M. on Tuesday to take on the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds. The single, nine-inning matchup was a fight to the finish but the Aggies persevered and came out on top (8-6).

The Aggies were quiet to begin the first inning, going three up-three down, though the Greyhounds were equally silent, going scoreless into the second. ENMU saw some light action in the bottom of the second, bringing in one run off a single through the left side. The Aggies were quick to answer back in success in the third, with the inning starting with a base on balls for Nate Kelly, an effective bunt from Jake Dean, and Jared Mayeda reaching on a hit by pitch. Jaylon Burnett posted a two-RBI single to bring in both Kelly and Dean, and a subsequent RBI single to the right side from Luis Rodriguez added a third run. The Greyhounds left the third 3-1 in favor of the Aggies.

Insistence on both sides of the ball would leave the fourth and fifth innings quiet for both teams. In the top of the sixth, Derek Stallworth was called on to pinch hit for Bowman and took his opportunity with a double down the left field line. A single from Kelly would send Stallworth home and the Aggies brought the score 4-1.

To close out the sixth, junior Jeremy Norris would come in to take the mound to relieve freshman pitcher Garrison Armstrong of his valiant five innings-pitched, but the bats came alive for the Greyhounds, bringing in three runs to tie the Aggies, and they would add one more in the bottom of the seventh off an RBI sac-fly, taking the score 5-4, ENMU.

The Aggies revamped and rallied in the eighth. Luis Rodriguez started the inning with a walk and Jordan Smith came in to pinch run; Smith swiftly advanced to second on a sac bunt from Jorge De La Cruz. Smith then stole third and Stallworth walked, leaving runners on first and third for the Aggies. Stallworth advanced on a stolen base, forcing the Greyhounds to intentionally walk hot-hitter Kelly and load the bases on two outs. Juan Sanchez stepped up to the plate and battled from a starting 0-2 count to a 2-2 with a quality at-bat that would end in a fielding error by SNU, scoring Smith and Stallworth. Kasey Leatherwood stepped up and continued the comeback with a roped two-RBI triple.

Freshman Colby Fuller would boast determined pitching and hold ENMU to only one run in the bottom of the ninth, closing out the game 8-6, and taking home the win for the Aggies.

Coach LaRocque expounded on the game, "We weren't our best, we didn't execute on some pitches, left some balls up, had a few mental mistakes on defense and at the plate we just never really got into a groove. At times we had hitters picking up the ball at the plate and at other times we were giving away our at-bats. Midweek's are tough, especially against a good team like ENMU. Teams like that don't leave a lot of room for error and it's tough to get our best product on a Tuesday. However, many times that is when you find out the true colors of your team. I told our guys before the game, 'Anyone can be great one day, anyone can be great for one series on a weekend, but can you turn around after a hard fought series and be great on any given day?' Again, I think that says a lot about the character of our team because we didn't have our best stuff and we didn't play at the caliber we are capable of, but the ability to persevere is what defines great teams, and I was proud of the way our guys fought. They were disciplined to execute through the adversity and in an encompassing figure, Juan Sanchez' at bat was the story of the game. He wasn't putting his best swing on the baseball, but he was doing everything he could in an 0-2 approach to stay alive at the plate and ultimately ended up finding a barrel that gave us the tying and go-ahead run to win the game." LaRocque continued, "This was a success from how well our team can make adjustments in all phases of the game, particularly at the plate. I think this is the sum of the asset that Coach Schulz has brought to our hitters-getting guys to adjust pitch by pitch is one of the most difficult things in the game."

LaRocque also commended two freshman pitchers on their performance, saying, "Garrison left a few pitches up and was missing some conviction early on, but continued to make adjustments until he got down in the zone and put together competitive sequences for five innings in a spot where we really needed someone to step up, and I couldn't ask more from a freshman. Colby Fuller was in a really tough spot, especially for a freshman and for his first time in a situation with the outcome of the game weighing on his shoulders. In their home opener where they were locked in and the game tying run was at the plate, he was able to shut the door on them."

"I know we have another quick turnaround this weekend after a long night on Tuesday, but I am impressed with the fortitude of this team, "LaRocque stated, "I know our guys are ready to get back to work and they're ready to see what the rest of 2018 can bring us."

The Aggies now hold a 4-3 record on the season, and have offered to host their previously scheduled away-series against McPherson College due to forecasted inclement weather for Kansas. Two double-header matchups against the Bulldogs will now take place at Aggie Field on Sunday, Feb. 11 and Monday, Feb. 12 starting at 11 a.m. both days. Live stats and video streaming will be offered for all events. Panhandle's DH in McPherson versus Evangel, originally scheduled for Feb. 10 has been cancelled.