Aggie baseball is off to a 4-0 start after sweeping Texas Southern in Las Cruces this weekend.
Last season, the Aggies finished 38-17 overall (19-8 WAC), which placed them in a three-way tie for first and a share of the regular-season Western Athletic Conference title. The Aggies stumbled in the WAC tournament, however, falling to Sacramento State in Game 9.
While the Aggies may not have performed as well as they had hoped in 2019, the 4-0 start this weekend suggests they are more than ready to start this new season with positivity and plenty of new energy.
This year the team heads into the season with not only a clear mindset, but a new head coach in Mike Kirby. Kirby is the 11th head coach in program history to sign with NMSU and indicated he’s excited to be an Aggie. “I’m really excited for the season — probably more pumped to be coaching here at New Mexico State,” Kirby said.
Coach Kirby has worked with numerous schools as either an assistant or head coach, and has seen over 100 players taken in the Major League Baseball draft, according to an article published by the NMSU athletics department.
Kirby was signed as head coach in June 2019, so he was able to spend the off-season working with the team. “After seeing these guys compete for the last six months, I have a pretty good understanding of who can do what and who needs to get better at what — and more importantly, what type of [people] they are and what motivates them,” Kirby said.
The next order of business is for the players to completely adapt to Kirby’s coaching style. “They need to get to know me and how I like to go about my business and what some of my coaching philosophies are.”
Returning players Chance Hroch (pitcher) and Tristan Peterson (infielder) both indicated they are excited to return to the diamond for their senior year and have good expectations for the season. “I’m really excited. I think we have a good group coming back from last year and a good group of young guys, so I’m really excited to see what we can do,” Hroch said.
“We wanna go into that (WAC) tournament and win it,” Peterson added.
Last season, Peterson racked up quite a few honors including First Team All-Conference, 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association All-Region, 2019 NCAA RBI per game leader, and 2019 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-American. Peterson managed to post a .400 batting average and 20 home runs in 2019.
Also returning for the season is junior infielder Nick Gonzales, who batted .432 last season and was awarded numerous titles and honors including NCAA Batting Champion, 2019 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and ABCA All-American, 2019 Perfect Game Summer Collegiate Player of the Year, 2019 Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award Finalist and many more.
True to form, Gonzales ended up with four home runs and 17 RBIs in this weekend’s opening series against Texas Southern. His three-homer day Sunday tied the school record for most homers in a single game. Chance Hroch helped lead the team to an 11-2 victory as the starting pitcher in Game 1 of the series on Friday.
Prior to this weekend’s season opener, Coach Kirby said he believes that NMSU has all the players they need for a successful season and to make just as big an impact in the WAC tournament as the team did last season.
“My expectations are high,” Kirby said. “I’d like to go to regionals and be the first team to go to Omaha in a long time.”
The Aggies’ 2020 season continues next weekend with a four-game home series against Iona at Presley Askew Field. The first game starts Friday, Feb. 21, at 3 p.m.