Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Aggies need top pitchers available in WAC Tournament

(A healthy Chris Bradley would go a long way towards the Aggies springing a Round 1 win over Utah Valley/Photo by Carlos Javier Sanchez)

Can the New Mexico State Aggie baseball team win the 2014 Western Athletic Conference Tournament this weekend? While it can be hard picturing such a developent, it’s also possible.

For the No. 6-seeded Aggies to have any hope, however, they must have their top-two starting pitchers - Chris Bradley and Billy Conard - to be healthy enough to take the hill.

Bradley has been battling back spasms, while Conard has an injured ankle. The Aggies don’t have a ton of pitching depth the begin with, and need their top-two hurlers atop the rotation to at least give them a shot.

Bradley, a senior, has been very good at times, striking out 61 batters (while walking 46) in 65 innings of work. He sports a 3-6 record and a 4.98 ERA in 13 appearances this season, all of which have been in a starting role.

Conard has a 3-3 record of his own with a 4.94 ERA, while striking out 48 and walking 25 in 62 innings. Of his 14 appearances this year, 11 have been starts.

Behind those two are a handful of wildcards. Riley Barr has been the team’s top pitcher statistically (5-2 record, 2.72 ERA) although he’s been used primarily out of the bullpen. Of Barr’s 23 appearances this season, 21 have come as a reliever.

Robert Kraft, a left hander, has made 12 starts this season, although has been up and down with a 5.46 ERA. Trey Higginbothom, another lefty, has made just two starts this season although one was a solid effort against Arizona State (3.1 innings, two hits, five walks and one earned run).

The point is, the Aggies don’t have a ton of pitching depth. They need this first before the other necessary variables fall into place - such as their offense catching fire over a four-day stretch, and their defense playing at at least a respectable level - in order to win.

NMSU opens the 2014 WAC Tournament on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (MDT) against No. 3-seed Utah Valley. The Tournament will be played in Phoenix, Ariz.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

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