TUCSON, Ariz. - Sophomore Alex Newman pitched a no-hitter and senior Ashley Maroda cranked two home runs as the New Mexico State softball team made a spectacular NCAA Tournament debut Friday evening with a 9-0 run-rule victory over Texas Tech at the Tucson Regional hosted by the University of Arizona at the Wildcats' Hillenbrand Stadium.
In its first NCAA tourney game, NM State (44-15) opened the scoring in the second inning with two runs off of a Maroda single to lead 2-0 early. In the top of the third, NM State pushed five runs across after home runs by Maroda and freshman Valerie Swedberg to go up 7-0 and force a Texas Tech pitching change. The Aggies added two more runs in the top of the fifth thanks to Maroda's second round tripper of the game. NM State posted 10 hits against TTU. Meanwhile, Newman threw her first career no-hitter and first in four seasons for the Aggies.
New Mexico State will now face No. 8 seed Arizona, a 10-0 winner over Harvard in six innings, at 3 p.m. MT on Saturday at Hillenbrand for the right to play on Sunday in the regional championship. The game will be called live over the air on KSNM 570 AM and over AggieAccess by Kyle Doperalski of the Aggie Sports Radio Network. Aggie faithful can also tune into a live video webstream of the game at no cost with ambient crowd noise by clicking the live video link for the game on ArizonaWildcats.com. Live stats are also available during the game and linked on NMStateSports.com.
"I'm proud of the kids and how hard they played," said head coach Kathy Rodolph. "I told them to focus on just us, and they did just that. Alex Newman pitched a fantastic game. She put the ball in good spots, and it was just huge for her first regional. Ashley Maroda can hurt opponents, and she did tonight. She owned that five-six hole for us on defense."
Maroda finished the game with five RBI while going 3-for-3 at the plate including two homers. Swedberg also went 3-for-3 at the plate with a home run and a pair of singles. Senior leadoff hitter Kylie Randall was 2-of-3 at the dish. Randall and Swedberg extended their current hitting streaks to 12 and 11 games, respectively.
Randall stole two bases in the third, including a double steal of home plate that broke the NM State single-season record mark of 37 set by Andrea Benford in 1996. The Aggie career steals leader now has reached safely in 38 of 40 stolen base attempts this season. On defense, Randall made a spectacular play on a ball to shortstop to save the no-hitter for Newman.
Newman threw her first no-hitter of her career while setting the Aggies' single-season record for wins at 23 against six losses this season. The sophomore right-hander's "no-no" was the first in four seasons for the Aggies and just the third since NM State joined the WAC in 2005. Former Aggie ace Kim Watson threw a seven-inning no-hitter versus Utah State on May 4, 2007. The other was posted by Vanessa Fitzgerald against McNeese State on Feb. 23, 2007.
No opposing runner has reached third base against the Aggie pitching staff and defense since the bottom of the fifth of a WAC semifinal game against Boise State. No opposing runner has reached third against Newman since the top of the third inning of a WAC first round game against Hawai'i. Additionally, NM State has held opponents scoreless for 21 straight innings dating back to the sixth inning against UH at the WAC tourney.
Texas Tech (40-15) could not solve Newman putting only three base runners on as a result of two walks and an Aggie error. One Red Raider reached second after stealing second base in the fourth inning. The Tech loss was its first at a neutral site this season in 12 outings.
The win marked the Aggies' second-straight run-rule win with nine runs scored against Texas Tech. The Aggies dropped the Red Raiders. The last time the teams met was in the 2009 season at the San Diego State Tournament. The Aggies posted a run-rule 9-1 victory to stop a six-game series win streak by TTU.
The Crimson and White first eclipsed the previous program-best victory total of 40, set in 1996, with a three-game sweep of BSU to end the regular season. NM State's current win total of 44 now stands as the program record. This season's record marks just the sixth season of 30 wins or more in NM State history. The Aggies' 17 WAC victories this season is also a program record. The Aggies have now won 25 of their last 30 games.
In the circle, Newman battled against Texas Tech starter Brittany Talley.
After a scoreless first inning that went 1-2-3 on both sides, NM State started the scoring in the top of the second inning.
Senior Hoku Nohara drew a walk against Talley then Swedberg singled through the left side for the game's first hit. Senior Vanessa Valles' sacrifice bunt moved the runners to scoring position. Next up, Maroda singled to left to bring both runners across for an early 2-0 lead after two.
The Aggies opened up the scoring floodgates in the top of the third frame. Randall hit a bunt single to reach first. Randall stole second before junior Tiare Jennings singled up the middle to put runners on the corners. A double steal scored Randall at home and allowed Jennings to move to second and then on to third after an errant throw.
Nohara followed with an RBI-single up the middle to score Jennings for a 4-0 lead. That forced a TTU pitching change as Kermitria Ward came on to pitch for the Red Raiders. Swedberg welcomed Ward with a two-run homer to left to put NM State up 6-0. Two batters later, Maroda homered to left field with two outs to give the Aggies a 7-0 advantage after three. NM State posted five runs on five hits.
Both teams left a runner on in the fourth inning as the score remained 7-0 heading into the fifth.
NM State put the game out of reach in the top of the fifth. Swedberg powered a one-out single to left center. Maroda then hit her second home run of the game to left center, yielding the final score of 9-0.
Newman moved to 23-6 on the year while Talley took the loss to drop to 14-7.
Host Arizona (40-16), the No. 8 national seed overall, battled Ivy League champion Harvard (36-14) in the nightcap. The four-team regional is a double-elimination tournament with opening games on Friday. Three games will be played on Saturday. Game one Saturday pits Friday's winners against one another while game two has the losing squads matching up in an elimination game.
The third tilt Saturday features the loser of the early game and the winner of the day's second game in another elimination game. The regional championship will be held Sunday for the right to advance to the 16-team NCAA Super Regionals.
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