LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The 2011 New Mexico State softball team made history Saturday after sweeping Boise State, 16-3 in five innings and 7-6, at the NM State Softball Complex to claim the Aggies' first outright Western Athletic Conference (WAC) regular season championship.
NM State (40-15, 17-4 WAC) won the league crown by two games over Boise State (32-18, 15-6 WAC) and Fresno State while earning the top seed in the WAC Softball Tournament in Fresno, Calif., next week. The Aggies will face the winner of the fourth-seeded Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine and the fifth-seeded Utah State Aggies on Thursday, May 12 at 12:30 p.m. on the Bulldog Diamond in the double elimination tournament.
The Crimson and White also matched a program-best victory total of 40, set in 1996, today with the three-game sweep of BSU. The Aggies' 17 conference victories is also a new program record. NM State won 21 of its final 25 games down the stretch to end the regular season.
"Today's championship is for not only these Aggies," said head coach Kathy Rodolph, "but for all of the Aggies that have been a part of rebuilding this program. We just want to keep playing as hard as we can. We're going to enjoy this tonight, have our team banquet tomorrow and get back to practice on Monday.
"I feel like I have really squeezed our seniors hard this year to lead and basically be our courage. I am extremely proud that when it counted they came through big. They are giving our younger players courage and expectations of where this program should be now."
In the opener of Saturday's twinbill the Aggie bats caught fire with a combined 13 runs in the bottom of the third and fourth innings to break open a 3-3 tied ball game. NM State connected on 14 hits in the contest including senior Ashley Maroda's second homer of the weekend and a round tripper from junior Tiare Jennings. Freshman right hander Celisha Walker held the potent BSU offense in check, while earning a complete game win. Walker allowed the Broncos only three runs, two earned, on just four hits.
The game one win gave the Aggies at least a share of the regular season title and clinched the top seed in the WAC tourney. However, the Broncos could still rally to tie for the championship with a win in the finale.
In the final game of the series, NM State went up 3-0 early in the first inning. But the Broncos would not go down without a fight, posting four runs in the third and another in the fourth to pull ahead 5-3. The Aggies got one back in the fourth to cut the BSU lead down to one.
The Aggie bats rallied in the bottom of the fifth with six straight hits to open the inning. As a result, NM State pushed three runs across the plate to retake the lead at 7-5. BSU scored one in the bottom of the sixth, but Walker came on in relief to shut the door on the Broncos to give NM State the 7-6 victory. Senior Alex Villalobos earned the win on Aggie Senior Day with 2.2 solid innings of relief work.
The Aggies honored their seven seniors, four of which are four-year starters, on the field after their final home game. Senior Hoku Nohara is the Aggie all-time home run leader. Classmate Kandis Jones tops the Aggie record books in hits and runs scored. Senior Kylie Randall owns the NM State stolen bases career record. Four-year starter Ashley Maroda ranks among the top five in 10 different career categories including second all-time in assists while playing at third base and is tied for second with Jennings on the career home run list behind Nohara.
Along with that quartet, fellow seniors Tiffany Autry, Vanessa Valles and Villalobos helped the class of 2011 to already become the winningest in program history with 130 victories - with at least two games to go. Collectively, the seven seniors own 10 Aggie individual career records, seven NM State individual single-season records and multiple program single-game records.
This year, the seniors led the Aggies to set eight team season records in the NM State record books including best winning percentage (.727), most runs in a season (393), most hits in a season (361) and most home runs in a season (73).
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