The New Mexico State softball team is getting ready to build off the success of winning the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) tournament and making it to the NCAA softball tournament last season.
The Aggies were able to win the WAC tournament last year by defeating Seattle University twice on the final day of the tournament to advance to the NCAA tournament. They advanced to the Tucson regional along with Arizona, St. Francis and South Carolina. The Aggies drew the number two nationally ranked Arizona Wildcats and lost 11-0. They then played St. Francis in the consolation round of the tournament, which they lost 8-4 and ultimately ended their season.
The Aggies are looking to build off the success they created last season and hope to return to the NCAA tournament this year. “We have a lot of kids back. We only graduated two, so I expect our experience to look forward to playing top teams,” said Head Coach Kathy Rudolph. The Aggies graduated two seniors from last year: infielder Haley Nakamura and utility player Misty Hoohuli.
The Aggies had six players last season make the All-WAC team. First team honors went to catcher Nikki Butler, second basemen Kelsey Horton and shortstop Rachel Rodriguez. On the second team was outfielder Victoria Castro, first basemen Fahren Glackin and pitcher Kayla Green. All of these players are returning and are hoping to lead the Aggies to another strong season.
One of the players returning is Kelsey Horton, who was the 2017 WAC player of the year and has been named the preseason WAC player of the year. She is certainly going to be one player to watch for and will be a key to the Aggies success this season.
“I think the hardest thing for us is not to press and to take it one day at a time and to keep positive thoughts.”
In the pitcher’s circle for the Aggies this season, Kayla Green and Samaria Diaz along with Analise De La Roca and Mikayla Bongi should add some depth to the rotation. The Aggies are going to be counting on these ladies to get the job done inside the circle whenever called upon.
During the off-season, Coach Rodolph added a couple people to her staff. She hired Thomas Ramos to be her assistant head coach and she hired Pam Stone as a volunteer coach. Ramos comes with 19 seasons of coaching experience, all while at Midland College. He was named the Western Junior College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year from 2002-2008. Ramos is going to be in charge of developing the hitters. Stone comes to the Aggies from Arizona Western College where she coached for 15 years. She has a total of 23 years of coaching experience and is going to be helping out the pitchers this season.
The Aggies open up the season with a double-header today at home against the No. 17 ranked Kentucky Wildcats. The Aggies are hoping for a hot start to the season against quality opposition. The Kentucky Wildcats finished their season last year by getting swept by Oregon in the Super Regionals of last year’s NCAA tournament. The Aggies know they are facing a top-tier opponent in Kentucky, but they also know that if they play well they can beat anyone in the country.
Coach Rodolph was asked how her team is preparing now that it is game week. “I think the hardest thing for us is not to press and to take it one day at a time and to keep positive thoughts.”
First pitch of the Aggie season opener is set for 4 p.m. this afternoon with the second game to start immediately following the first one.