NM State (20-24, 1-11 WAC) enters the weekend after taking one of three games against Nevada at home last weekend. On Saturday alone, the teams combined for 31 runs and 50 hits in an offensive-heavy doubleheader. The foes also totaled eight errors while contending with strong, gusty winds on defense. Only three innings registered scoreless out of 13 total frames of the twin bill.
Fresno State (28-17, 8-2 WAC) split a doubleheader at San Jose State on Sunday after weather delayed the beginning of the series last weekend. The Bulldogs have lost two of their last three games including a 4-3 non-conference loss to Cal Poly in 10 innings in their last home contest.
Fans can listen to all three games of the series live on KSNM 570 AM with play-by-play from Kyle Doperalski. Aggie faithful can also receive updates via Twitter at the Aggies' official account, @NMStateAggies. A live stats link for each game is available at NMStateSports.com.
With just nine games left on the conference schedule, this series is important to both teams. Fresno State is battling No. 14 Hawai'i for the WAC regular-season title. NM State is fighting to qualify for the conference tournament.
Only the top six teams make the WAC tournament hosted by NM State next month. Louisiana Tech and Utah State are the two teams directly ahead of the eighth-place Aggies in the current conference standings. The Aggies must win a minimum of five games the rest of the way to qualify for the tourney. Each Lady Techster win would increase that minimum win total by one.
In 2011 NM State won its first-ever series against Fresno State. Then-No. 23 Fresno State defeated the Aggies 9-1 in game one on April 8 in Las Cruces. NM State then swept a doubleheader from the Bulldogs the next day with two run-rule victories 10-2 and 9-1 to move into a first place tie in the WAC.
Senior Tiare Jennings led the prolific Aggie offense against Fresno State last season, hitting two home runs in game three including a walk-off homer to seal the series. Those home runs began Jennings' NCAA-record tying streak of five consecutive games with a homer in April 2011.
Later in the season at the WAC Tournament in Fresno, NM State blanked the Bulldogs 5-0 to claim its first WAC Tourney title and initial NCAA Tournament berth. NM State went ahead 1-0 early in the game's first at-bat after a Fresno State error. The Aggies scored three more in the top of the second after a two-RBI double Tiare Jennings to push ahead 4-0. Another FS error allowed NM State to score its final run in the top of the third frame for the final score.
Fresno State could not solve NM State starter Alex Newman who pitched a complete game shutout allowing just four Bulldog hits on their home field. With the victory Newman tied the single-season win mark by a pitcher in program history set by Sarah Seagraves in 2005. She later broke that record with a no-hitter against Texas Tech in the Aggies' NCAA debut.
Despite taking three of four games last season against the Bulldogs, NM State trails Fresno State 29-5 all-time in the series. The Aggies snapped a six-game Bulldog win streak last season and replaced it with a three-game win streak of its own in the series entering this weekend.
Prior to last year, the last Aggie win in the series was a 3-0 shutout on March 27, 2009 in Las Cruces. The other NM State victory was a 5-4 win on March 9, 2001 in Fresno. Aggie head coach Kathy Rodolph is 4-13 against Fresno State all-time.
NM State is just 3-9 this season in true road games and is still seeking its first conference road win of 2012. Fresno State is 17-9 at home this year and remains unblemished at 5-0 in conference games.
Five active Aggies are hitting .300 or better coming into this week. They include Aggie junior Amber Olive (.390), freshman Malena Padilla (.333), sophomore Valerie Swedberg (.328), freshman Briana Tovio-Asato (.330) and senior Tiare Jennings (.328).
Two Aggies also hitting above .300 this year were lost a month ago to knee injuries. The pair includes sophomore Kristi Covarrubia (.357) and junior Tehani Kaaihue (.303).
Olive leads the team with 19 multi-hit games this season and has the longest active hitting streak of six games. She ranks No. 31 nationally as toughest to strikeout in the latest NCAA rankings.
Swedberg swatted two homers against Nevada last weekend to take over the team lead at nine this season after hitting 13 during her freshman campaign.
Freshman Karysta Donisthorpe and junior Alex Newman lead the Aggies in the circle this year.
Donisthorpe has a 6-8 record with a 4.03 ERA this season in 14 starts and 28 appearances. She has allowed 57 earned runs in 99 innings of work and boasts a team-high 90 strikeouts.
Newman is 9-13 this season with a 4.60 ERA. In 123.1 innings pitched she has surrendered 81 earned runs. Newman also leads the team with 23 starts and 33 appearances in the circle this year.
Three Bulldog batters are hitting .300 or better this season at the plate. Brooke Ortiz leads the way with a .341 average. Stesha Brazil is second on the team with a .328 mark at the plate and is tied for the team lead of 45 hits. Courtney Moore hits .306 at the dish and leads the team with an on-base percentage of .433.
Michelle Moses does double duty for the 'Dogs this year. She leads the team with 15 home runs this season while hitting .221 at the plate. In the circle she leads Fresno State with a 1.90 ERA, producing an 18-11 record.
Fellow hurler Mackenzie Oakes is 8-4 with a 3.02 ERA this year for the Bulldogs in 20 appearances and 13 starts.
Click NMStateSports.com for all of the latest Aggie softball news this season.