Seattle University started the final conference weekend series of the 2013 season on a strong note, combining solid pitching with an offensive explosion to defeat New Mexico State in seven innings, 15-2, Thursday night in Western Athletic Conference baseball action at Bannerwood Park.
With one out in the bottom of the first inning, Landon Cray (Chimacum, Wash.) singled to right field, and Nate Roberts (Silverdale, Wash.) drew a walk. Ryan Somers (Sammamish, Wash.) laced a 1-0 pitch down the left field line for a two-out double, driving in Cray and Roberts to give Seattle U the early lead.
Steve Kirbach (Kirkland, Wash.) led off the bottom of the second with a single, Chase Fields (Ontario, Ore.) drew a one-out walk, and Cray laid down a bunt single to load the bases. Aggie starter Casey Collins threw a wild pitch that allowed Kirbach to score and the other two runners to advance into scoring position, after which Roberts hit a double down the left field line to drive Fields and Cray in, increasing the Redhawk lead to 5-0.
Andrew Olson (Enumclaw, Wash.) bounced back from a rough start the previous weekend at CSU Bakersfield, limiting the Aggies to four hits in five innings. He did not walk anybody while collecting four strikeouts as he picked up his team-leading seventh victory of the season.
Seattle U broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth inning, starting with walks to Brian Olson (Black Diamond, Wash.) and Kirbach. Austen Brand (Tacoma, Wash.) followed with a three-run home run over the left field wall, the first of his collegiate career, and Fields hit a ball deep into the hole at shortstop for a single, ending the outing for Collins.
Cray greeted Aggie reliever Robert Kraft with a triple to right-center field, scoring Fields, and Roberts would follow with his second double of the game, driving in Cray. Kevin Piersol replaced Kraft, but he gave up an RBI double to Nick Latta (Tacoma, Wash.) that scored Roberts, a walk to Somers, and a single to Olson that loaded the bases with just one out.
Cullen Hendrickson (Auburn, Wash.) sent a single through the right side of the infield, scoring Latta and bringing about New Mexico State’s third pitching change of the inning. With Tyler Aguirre now pitching, Somers scored when Kirbach reached base on catcher’s interference, Olson would be forced home as Brand drew a bases-loaded walk, and Hendrickson scored the 10th and final run of the inning on a single to center field by Fields.
“Even after his tough start at Bakersfield, AO seemed like the right guy to go out there, and he put up some zeros on their end, which gave our offense an opportunity to get going,” Seattle U head coach Donny Harrel said. “Landon has been great for us as a freshman, as he seems to always be on base and has had some timely hits this year. With a couple of guys out, it was big for Austen to come in and hit that home run to create some separation. It was a great team effort tonight, especially continuing to provide separation after allowing teams back into games previously.”
Evan Ewing (Spokane, Wash.) set down the Aggies in order in the sixth inning. Mason Stidham (Star, Idaho) allowed two New Mexico State runs in the seventh inning, one of them unearned, but he did pick up two strikeouts and was able to induce a groundout to end the inning, bringing about the WAC ten-run rule that brought the game to its conclusion.
Every starter for Seattle U earned at least one hit as the Redhawks collected 16 total hits, led by a 3-for-5 effort by Cray and two-hit performances from five other batters. Nobody had more than one hit for New Mexico State, as the Aggies were held to six total hits in the game.
Seattle University (20-32, 9-15 WAC), now tied with San Jose State for eighth place, will continue its pursuit of a berth in next week’s WAC Tournament Friday, May 17, against New Mexico State (27-25, 12-13 WAC) starting at 2 p.m. at Bannerwood Park. Ben Ruff (Fife, Wash.) will make his first career start for the Redhawks Friday, while the Aggies plan to start lefthanded pitcher Christopher Bradley.