LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State softball team split its two games to conclude the Hotel Encanto Invitational on Sunday, Feb. 9. NM State was defeated 4-3 by Saint Mary’s and came back for a come-from-behind win over I-10 rival UTEP off the bat of junior Lacey Rother. The Aggies went 2-4 in opening weekend.
“This was a growing weekend for us,” head coach Kathy Rodolph said. “We are green and that showed today on defense, but we are going to focus on getting comfortable in uncomfortable situations this week so we are prepared for the Troy Cox Classic.”
In game one, the Aggies and Gaels were scoreless through the first three innings. NM State retired Saint Mary’s in order in the first two innings and gave up just one hit in the third. Freshman Emma Adams and junior Kelsey Dodd teamed with runners on first and second for the second double play of the season to get out of the inning.
NM State was sent away in order in the third and fourth, but came up with a couple of big hits for the 1-0 lead in the fifth. Sophomore Brennalyn Nakamura hit an RBI double to center field to plate freshman Misty Hoohuli who pinch hit her way to second.
Saint Mary’s came up in their half of the fifth to take a 2-1 lead off a couple of Aggie errors that put runners at second and third. A double to the left corner by right fielder Monika Slaughter moved the two Gaels. Saint Mary’s crossed the plate once more
NM State closed the gap to just a one-run game in the top of the fifth when Rother fired her first home run of the season over the left field fence. Nakamura hit a double in the sixth, but the Aggies would not turn it into a run.
The Aggies battled the Miners through the last game of the weekend with six hits for NM State and 10 for UTEP. The Crimson and White saw Nakamura go 2-for-3 with a walk and sophomore Tatum Reedy go 2-for-3 with two RBI.
NM State sent UTEP away in order in the first two frames, but had one hit and a stolen base by Nakamura in the home half of the first. In the second, NM State lit up the board as Reedy hit an RBI single to score Hoohuli after reaching on a double up the left line.
In the third inning, Dodd got her first hit of the season and turned that into an RBI single as Nakamura scored from second after a single up the middle and a stolen base put her in position.
Reedy came back to the plate in the fourth and smashed her first home run of the season for the 3-0 lead over the Miners. But UTEP would make its comeback in the top half of the sixth when a single got the Miners on the base path and a pair of wild pitches from sophomore Makayla McAdams and three Aggie errors scored two runs for UTEP.
Rodolph made a pitching change back to Donisthorpe, who threw six complete against Saint Mary’s. With runners on second and third, Miner Ashley Eldridge hit a three-run bomb battling Donisthorpe 10 pitches, for the 5-3 over NM State.
The Aggies fought back in their half of the sixth loading the bases off a couple base hits and a fielding error by the Miners. With two outs and bases full, Rother came to the plate and smashed her second home run of the day and first career grand slam over the left corner to give the Aggies the 8-6 advantage.
“I am very happy with Lacey’s performance this weekend. Her hit was the key moment in this game and I was happy to see her at the plate in that situation. She had quality at bats all weekend,” Rodolph said.
Rother finished the weekend 5-of-13 with five RBI and 11 total bases. She is batting .385 on the season after the five Aggies games and boasts a .846 slugging percentage.
The Aggies continue at the NM State Softball Complex by hosting the Troy Cox Classic Feb. 14-16 for the 24th straight season. Making their way to Las Cruces for the tournament is Northern Colorado, Texas Tech, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Iowa State and Weber State. NM State faces TAMUCC at 4 p.m. on Feb. 14 and Iowa State at 6 p.m. On Saturday, the Aggies host Northern Colorado and Iowa State beginning at 4 p.m. Closing out the weekend against the Aggies is Texas Tech at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 16.