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Aggie baseball eliminated by Kent State in heartbreaker

LUBBOCK, Texas — Pete Schuler hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning and Kent State beat New Mexico State 2-1 in an elimination game at the NCAA Tournament’s Lubbock Regional on Saturday.

The Aggies, who got 7⅓ brilliant innings from starter Kyle Bradish in what is expected to be his final game with NMSU, ended their season at 40-23. They were making their first NCAA appearance since 2012.

It was Schuler’s second homer of the season. He also homered in the NCAA regional opener for the Mid-American Conference champion Golden Flashes (40-17).

Bradish was pulled after a one-out walk to Pavin Parks on his 122nd pitch. Schuler then went deep on the first pitch thrown by reliever Brock Whittlesey (3-5).

“Unbelievable performance,” NMSU coach Brian Green said about Bradish. “The guy carried us the last month of the season and gave us everything we had. One hundred twenty two pitches, we just couldn’t go with him anymore. I know he wanted to and he was telling us that he was going to finish the game. But with what is in store for him in the next couple of days … we owed it to him. What a team player, what a performance. He gave us everything he had and put us in a position to win.”

John Matthews (1-1) worked 2⅔ scoreless innings in relief for Kent State. Collin Romel pitched the ninth, working around a hit batter and a single for his seventh save.

Caleb Henderson had an RBI double in the sixth for New Mexico State.

Bradish, a junior, is expected to be selected high enough in the Major League Baseball’s amateur draft, which begins Monday, to preclude his return for a senior season with the Aggies. (See page D6.)

“Very emotional right now, because this is probably my last college start,” Bradish said, “but I went out there tried to compete and get a win for my team. Obviously, that didn’t happen but I was pleased with our team effort.”

QUOTABLES

Head coach Brian Green on what Kyle Bradish meant to the team’s turnaround…

“Yeah, Kyle Bradish was part of our first recruiting class and, you know, he bought into a program that wasn’t where it was today. It’s really important to us as a coaching staff that when we recruit to student-athletes that we’re going to keep our word. And we cast out a vision to him, (Tristen) Carranza and all those guys that were on the field today. They (Bradish and Carranza) were both part of that first class. He (Bradish) absolutely emerged as a leader this year. It really means a lot to me and that is why you coach. Kids like that and you watch them grow up right in front of your face. Comes from a great family. Kyle’s one of the bricklayers of the program for us and I couldn’t be more proud of what he did in his career here at New Mexico State.”

 

Coach Green on his outfields contribution to this season…

“I’m really proud of them. Carranza is a self-made outfielder who came in as a catcher and converted to first base and then moved over to left. Marcus Still is one of the premier centerfielders. He’s one of the best centerfielders that we saw in the country this year and was on our team. He’s saved us so many runs. And Logan Ehnes is really aggressive out there. I thought our outfield play was great. I think that’s one of the things you see in tournament time, you see a lot of good infield play, but the outfield play is where you see a lot of plus speed and guys who can really track it down. Those doubles maybe in your regular season are caught in the postseason and I was really proud of their effort.”

 

Starting pitcher Kyle Bradish on his impressive NCAA Regional performance…

“I thought I pitched pretty well. I had great defensive plays out there. Very emotional right now, because this is probably my last college start, but I went out there tried to compete and get a win for my team. Obviously, that didn’t happen but I was pleased with our team effort.”

 

Bradish on the success this team has had and the challenges they have overcome… 

“Yeah, it’s been tough and we’ve been through a lot. Coach Green has done a great job recruiting the first class. We have a few guys on the team still that have helped get us to this point. Himself, TD (assistant coach Terry Davis), Joel Mangrum, they’ve all done a great job bringing in great guys. Like I said, I just want to lead by example and do the best for my teammates.”

Box score: Kent State 2, New Mexico State 1

Kent State’s Pete Schuler, right, tags out New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales, who was trying to score from first base on a two-out double by Mason Fishback in the Aggies’ second inning. (Brad Tollefson/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)

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