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Aggie spring sports underway

Most people don’t think of late February as springtime. In fact, spring technically doesn’t even start until March 21. At New Mexico State University and many other schools in the NCAA, however, the spring sports season is already underway.

The New Mexico State softball team got into the “swing” of things last month. Yes, pun intended. Coach Kathy Rodolph’s Aggies opened their season with a three-game series against the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners Feb 11. The Aggies swept the doubleheader with UTSA on opening day, winning the first game by a score of 9-1 and the second game by a score of 4-1. UTSA took the final game of the series the following day by a score of 11-3, avoiding the series sweep.

The Aggies have struggled since, losing nine of their last 11 games against tough non-conference competition since opening weekend. The team begins conference play against Utah Valley University Friday, March 31, at home in Las Cruces.

NMSU was the pre-season favorite to win the WAC for the fourth straight year. Last year, the Aggies finished with an overall record of 38-21 and a conference record of 14-1. They won the WAC regular season title and entered the 2016 WAC tournament as the number-one seed, but lost the championship game to CSU-Bakersfield 1-0. NMSU will host the 2017 WAC Softball Tournament, and the team hopes to win on its home turf.

Victoria Castro, sophomore centerfielder, is confident that her team can achieve that goal. “We’re a young team. We have ten new people, nine new freshmen and one transfer. I feel like last year we fell short in the WAC tournament,” she said. “We were regular-season conference champs, and I feel like, you know, we’re focusing day-by-day, pitch-by-pitch, but (our goal) is to win the tournament, get to regionals and go to the Women’s College World Series.”

Alex Reyes picks up his first career win Feb 26, pitching 2.2 innings and giving up just one earned run on two hits while striking out three. (Photo courtesy of NMSU Athletics)

The New Mexico State baseball team is coming off an impressive 2016 campaign in which the Aggies finished with an overall record of 34-23, good for second place in the WAC during the regular season. However, the Aggies lost in the semi-finals to Seattle University in the WAC Tournament. This off-season, head coach Brian Green pulled in the #33 recruiting class in the nation. Green enters his third season as the head baseball coach, and is optimistic about his team’s chances in 2017.

“We are really looking forward to the opportunity to compete against an extremely competitive schedule. The key to our success and the foundation of our confidence will lie in the ability of our players to place the needs of the team above their own, and to compete at an individual level that is respected by those not in the arena,” Green explained. “If we can play team-first and compete to earn teammate respect, then we will have a chance to play for something late in the spring. We’re all fired up to get going.”

Green’s Aggie’s opened their season Feb 17 against Bryant University, and are currently 6-4 overall including an impressive 29-1 win over Mount St. Mary’s Friday, Feb 26, at Presley Askew Field. The Aggies play a three-game series this weekend against Yale at home in Las Cruces. Conference play begins March 31 on the road against Seattle University.

While the baseball and softball seasons began in mid-February, both the men and women’s tennis teams have been in action since the end of January. The NMSU men’s tennis team is currently 5-3. The team’s schedule so far this season includes victories over Mesa Community College, UC Riverside, Youngstown State, Weber State and University of the Incarnate Word, with losses to UNLV, UT Arlington and UNM. Conference play begins March 24 against Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. The team finished in third place in the conference last season.

The women’s tennis team is off to a 3-5 start this season with wins over Central Oklahoma, Weber State and Mesa Community College. The women’s team is looking to defend its WAC Championship title when conference play begins March 17 against Seattle University in Las Cruces.

The outdoor track and field season kicks off March 17, when the Aggies travel to Tucson, Arizona, for their opening meet at the Willie Williams Classic. NMSU does not have a men’s track and field program, however, the school does feature a men’s cross country team. Last year, the women’s team finished fourth in the WAC championship and is looking to improve this season.

It should be an exciting spring at NMSU as all the spring sports teams are hungry for WAC championships and beyond.

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