LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The Bryant University baseball team loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning but Ruger Rodriguez was able to get the final two outs to help New Mexico State hang on for a 4-3 victory on Saturday night at Presley Askew Field.
The Bulldogs (2-1) left nine men on base in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader and mustered just six hits after collecting 18 in the first game. Dan Hetzel's three RBIs led the Aggies (1-2) to their first victory of the year.
Trailing by a run in the top of the ninth, freshman Gaby Cruz (Miami, Fla.) walked on four pitches to get things going. Classmate James Ciliento (Mahwah, N.J.) then laid down a bunt that was fielded in front of home plate by the Aggies catcher, Jason Bush. His throw to second was high, however, allowing both runners to reach safely. Freshman Bryan Hart (Franklin, Mass.) then bunted with two strikes on him to move the runners into scoring position.
Senior Cole Fabio (Mahwah, N.J.) drew a walk to load the bases and summon Rodriguez out of the bullpen. The right-hander struck out the first batter he faced before inducing a line drive to center for the final out of the game.
The Bulldogs were victimized by baserunning mistakes three times during the game, none more than in the top of the sixth. Freshman Ryan Ward (Millbury, Mass.) opened the inning with a sharp single and junior Mickey Gasper (Merrimack, N.H.) walked to put two on. Joe Standley was then summoned to face freshman Jimmy Titus (Stafford, Conn.) and the rookie greeted him with a long drive to right center. The ball kept carrying and eventually left the park for what appeared to be a three-run home run that would put Bryant ahead 4-3.
However, Titus passed Gasper at first base and was ruled out. Instead of a three-run home run, Titus was ruled out but both runners were allowed to score, tying the game at 3-3.
NM State took advantage of the mistake in the bottom of the sixth, scoring the eventual winning run. Greg Popylisen opened the inning was hit by a 1-2 pitch. He then advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a ground out. Hetzel brought him home with a sac fly to right.
The Bulldogs and Aggies both scored in the first inning of game two. Fabio walked to start the game and hustled around to third on an errant pickoff throw. Ward then brought him home with a ground ball to the right side.
NM State answered with two runs in the bottom of the first. With two on, Hetzel hit a long drive to right that just eluded the glove of Ciliento and brought home both runners to make it 2-1.
Junior Ross Weiner (Woodbridge, Conn.), who was making his first start since the Northeast Conference Championship game in 2015, allowed three runs on five hits over five innings. He walked one and struck out two. Freshman Vito Morgese (Warwick, N.Y.) suffered the loss, allowing one run on four hits over three innings of relief.
Ward finished the game with two hits, Fabio reached base safely with three walks and Cruz doubled and walked twice.
Kyle Bradish, a Freshman All-American last year, allowed three runs on three hits, walked five and struck out five over five innings for the Aggies. Keaton Graf pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief before handing the ball to Rodriguez in the ninth. Brent Sakurai led the Aggies with three hits.
Bryant and New Mexico State wrap up their four-game series on Sunday with a first pitch scheduled for 2:00 p.m. EST.