Head coach Rocky Ward heads into his 17th season at the helm of the NM State baseball team. Ward guided the Aggie squad for the 14th season in 2012 as the head coach. On two other occasions, 2001 and 2002, Ward shared the head coaching duties with his father Gary. During his 16 seasons as part of the Aggie program, Ward's teams have set or tied 68 team records and set or tied 51 individual records.
Before Ward, NM State baseball was not considered a program with a winning tradition. That has changed, however, in the 16 years Ward has been part of the Aggie team. Ward, NM State's all-time winningest baseball coach, has worked diligently each season to improve the team's status, both locally and nationally. The 2012 season was no exception.
In one of the best seasons in recent NM State baseball history, Ward led the 2012 Aggie squad to a 35-24 overall record, including a two-game sweep in Tucson of eventual national champion Arizona. The Aggies were the only team to win a series against the Wildcats all season long. 2012 was the fourth consecutive 30-plus-wins season for NM State. The Aggies also finished with a share of the WAC regular season title with an 11-7 conference record. Ward and his squad were rewarded at the end of the season by earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, their first appearance in the tournament since 2003.
Under Ward's direction, the Aggie offense finished in the top 10 nationally in six different categories, including finishing second in the nation in walks with 347. Senior Tanner Waite led the nation in walks per game and was also tied for most total walks. Waite was one of five Aggie players to earn first-team All-WAC honors after the season. The Chicago White Sox drafted two of those players, senior shortstop Zach Voight and junior catcher Zac Fisher, during the 2012 MLB draft. NM State also had two players make the All-WAC second team and six players earn an Academic All-WAC honor.
On a personal level, Ward became the first NM State baseball coach to reach the 400-win milestone. He reached 400 wins on May 16, 2012, when the Aggies defeated CSU Bakersfield 5-3 in Bakersfield, Calif. Ward finished the 2012 season with a total of 403 career wins.
The 2011 season was also a banner year for NM State and Ward, who had become the Aggies' all-time winnings coach the previous season. The Aggies finished the season with a 34-24 record, marking their third consecutive season with at least 30 wins. Ward finished the season with 368 career wins in his Aggie coaching career.
NM State won the 2011 NCAA Division I batting average title with a combined .337 batting average on the season. Twelve Aggie players finished with a batting average above .300, including eight starters who finished with a batting average above .325. The Aggies also led the nation in slugging percentage (.474), were third in total runs (495), third in walks (333), had a 10-win pitcher for the first time since 1995 and had five players who earned All-WAC honors.
Ward entered the 2010 season just two wins short of Jim Kwasny who tallied 300 wins from 1969-82. Ward surpassed Kwasny on the all-time wins list when the Aggies defeated Akron 8-3 in game one of a doubleheader, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. The Aggies won 36 games in 2010, giving Ward's team 80 wins over two seasons. The 14 conference wins NM State posted in 2010 were second-most in team history, one win short of the 2009 total. The Aggies established two significant winning streaks during the season, which helped the team obtain a national ranking. The first was a 12-game win streak that went from March 20-April 9. The second was a 10-game win streak that went from April 18-May 2.
Ward's 2010 team did not go unnoticed by their conference. The Aggies earned five WAC Hitter of the Week honors with senior Leo Aguirre earning the honor twice. Wade Reynoso, Ben Harty and Nate Shaver each earned the honor once, while junior Dan Reid was the only Aggie pitcher to earn WAC Pitcher of the Week Honors.
Along with all the weekly honors, the Aggies also picked up a few post-season awards. Aguirre, along with shortstop Ryan Aguayo, earned All-WAC honors. Aguirre was named to the first team, while Aguayo was a second-team honoree. Probably the most impressive accomplishments, especially with a 60-game season, was having 12 baseball players being named to the 2009-10 Academic All-WAC teams.
Ward had one of the best seasons of his Aggie career in 2009 as his team won the most games in program history, made it to the WAC Tournament finals and broke two home run records. The 44 games the Aggies won in 2009 broke the record that was held by the 2003 NM State baseball team the won 43 games while a part of the Sun Belt Conference. With its winning ways, NM State went into the WAC tournament as the No. 4 seed and eventually ousted No. 1 seed San Jose State and No. 2 seed Louisiana Tech before falling to Fresno State in the championship series, losing 9-7 and 5-3. The Aggies did place three players on the all-tournament team including senior outfielder Richard Stout, junior infielder Mike Sodders and junior right-hand pitcher DJ Simon.
Ward's 2009 Aggie squad led the nation in on-base percentage (.469), slugging percentage (.599), runs (688), RBIs (628), total bases (1,310) and walks (416). NM Statet got off to 26-3 start, which helped to get the Aggies into the national polls at No. 24. It was the best start in program history. NM State hadn't had such an impressive start since the 1990 team went 19-3 to open the season.
The 2009 Aggies started the season with 487 wins at Presley Askew Field and on Saturday, March 14, NM State picked up win No. 500 at Presley Askew Field with a 19-5 victory over visiting Northern Colorado.
With all of the success that season, Ward had two players placed on All-American teams. Shortstop Bryan Marquez was named to six different All-American teams while catcher Jeff Farnham was also named to an All-American team.
The 2008 seasons saw Ward and the Aggies have one of their best offensive seasons in school history. NM State led the WAC with 100 home runs and made it to the WAC tournament for the first time in school history after posting a 15-17 conference record, the best record for the Aggies since joining the WAC. Four players hit double-digit home runs including Joseph Scaperotta (23), Franky Busani (16), Marcus Quade (11) and Chris Auten (10). Scaperotta led the WAC in home runs, RBIs (82) and total bases (160). The offensive production by the Aggies was rewarded at the end of the year as six players were named to the All-WAC teams. Scaperotta earned first-team honors as an outfielder; Joe Leghorn was named first-team for his play at catcher, while Tyler Hardt earned first-team as a designated hitter. Right-handed pitchers Tyler Sturdevant and Heath Goin, along with shortstop Richard Stout, all made the second team.
Only the 2003 NMSU baseball team had as many all-conference selections as the Aggies did in 2008. That year there were three first-team and three second-team All-Sun Belt Conference selections. Goin and Sturdevant were the first pitchers to be selected to an all-conference team since Dustin Cameron was selected to second-team All-Sun Belt Conference in 2003. For the second consecutive season, Richard Stout led the team and conference in stolen bases with 20. He posted 26 in 2007. First baseman Chris Auten finished the 2008 season with a 21-game hitting streak, which carried over into the next season. He also led the Aggies with 24 doubles and had the most multiple hit games with 26. The 21-game hitting streak was the longest hitting streak in the WAC in 2008. Auten also led the conference in hits per game with 1.53.
Although the 2007 season was filled with plenty of ups and downs, there were plenty of highlights for Ward. First of all, he became the second-winningest coach in school history with 226 wins. He surpassed Elliot Avent (1989-96), May 14, 2007, when the Aggies beat Texas Tech 5-4. Under Ward, catcher Joe Leghorn hit for the cycle against Sacramento State, March 18, 2007, while utility player Marcus Quade set a new hitting streak record going 33 straight games with a hit. Stout's 26 steals led the team and the conference in 2007 and also got him into the top-10 single-season record book as an Aggie for steals.
From 2001-06 the Aggies posted a combined record of 174-120, the most wins in a five-year span in the history of Aggie baseball. The Aggies set school records for most Division I wins in a season three years in a row - 29 in 2001, 34 in 2002 and 41 in 2003
Ward's 2006 team saw two players pick up preseason awards. Second baseman Jason Long and first baseman Luke Hopkins were both named to the Preseason All-WAC Team. In addition, Hopkins was named a 2006 second-team preseason All-American and was listed on the Wallace Award Watch List, an honor awarded each year to the national college baseball player of the year. At the season's conclusion, center fielder Vince Rodden was named to the second-team All-WAC as he led the conference in stolen bases (33), stolen bases per game (0.61), plate appearances per game (4.94) and was second in walks (48). Serving as the Aggies' most powerful weapon at the plate, Hopkins also scattered his name in the record books after completing his second full season with NM State.
In single season records, Luke finished 2006 with the highest on-base percentage in school history (.548), tied for fifth in walks (53) and fifth in slugging percentage (.799). He led the nation in walks per game (1.2), was third in the nation in RBIs per game (1.48), seventh in slugging percentage, 10th in home runs per game (0.36) and 24th in batting average (.403). Injuries took a major toll on the Aggies throughout the year, as six players were lost for all or part of the season. One of the biggest losses was Tyler Sturdevant, who in only five appearances from the mound struck out 29 batters in 28 innings and had one complete game before falling victim to an arm injury. Six other Aggies sustained injuries, including Hopkins.
Despite the injuries, NM State did manage to post a record-setting game in their 17th test of the season as they pounded the Northern Iowa Panthers 37-11 on March 4. Heading into the series, the Panthers had a national RPI ranking of six and were undefeated at 6-0.
In the series opener, the Aggies looked like they were on their way to a win as they led 11-9 heading into the final inning. UNI then exploded for six runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and shut NMSU down in the bottom half to steal the win in the comeback effort. That was just the motivation the Aggies needed to exact revenge on the visiting squad as they hammered out their 37 runs on 22 hits the following day. In the win, NM State also set two school records, one of which had stood for 26 years. The 37 runs scored was the most in school history, eclipsing the record set when NM State beat Western New Mexico 35-0 back in 1981. The Aggies also set the record for most RBI in a game (33), surpassing the old mark of 32 set in 2005 against Chicago State.
Ward went into the 2005 season with four consecutive winning seasons in five years and NCAA Tournament appearances in 2002 and 2003. NMSU had never made a postseason appearance before 2002 and had never posted four straight winning seasons.
During the 2005 season, the Aggies had another successful year despite finishing with an overall record of 28-29. Ward's Aggies finished ranked in the top 10 in the country in three categories while finishing in the top 20 in a third. As a team, the Aggies finished second in the nation in home runs per game (1.56) with 89 total, third in scoring (9.3 runs/game), sixth in slugging percentage (.522) and 16th in batting average (.320). Several Aggies also made their mark in individual statistics as Mark Aranda led the nation in RBIs per game (1.57) and Hopkins finished closely behind in fourth (1.41). Aranda also finished second in home runs per game (.41) and third in slugging percentage (.767) while Hopkins ranked 38th in batting average (.392) and in slugging percentage (.679) as a freshman. Following the season, Aranda signed as a free agent with the Florida Marlins.
In an early season series against Chicago State, the Aggies set a new school record for runs scored in a four-game series as they plated 94 runs to sweep the series. The Aggies also defeated their rivals from the north, the New Mexico Lobos, three straight times, a feat that had not been accomplished since the 2001 season. The Aggies also proved to be a dominating force on their own diamond as they finished the season with a home record of 22 wins and only seven losses.
In 2004 the Aggies hit 115 home runs, setting a school and Sun Belt Conference record. Six different players hit at least 10 home runs that season, another school record. For the second consecutive season, the Aggies led the nation in home runs. The team also finished fifth in runs scored. All the records, however, were not set at the plate. NM State set a school record for best fielding percentage with a mark of .968. The Aggies finished 12-12 in conference play, the first time in school history the team finished .500 or better in league play in back-to-back seasons. Billy Becher became the first player in NCAA Division I history to lead the country in home runs and runs batted in per game in consecutive seasons. Becher finished the season with a .329 average, 19 doubles, 25 home runs and 90 RBI.
In 2003, the Aggies set school records for most wins in a season (43), most home wins in a season (31), best home winning percentage in a season (.912) and extended a school record home winning streak against non-conference opponents to 40. The Aggies had three players -- Becher, Alex Borgo and Brad Ditter -- earn first-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors while Becher and Ditter were taken in the Major League Baseball free agent draft.
In 2002, Ward helped lead NM State baseball to its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance and a Sun Belt Conference championship. Four players off that team were taken in the Major League Baseball free agent draft. Corey Harrington, Ryan Kenning, Gabe Veloz and Erik Winegarden all continued their careers after leading the Aggies to a spectacular season.
In 2001, the Aggies posted its first winning record since 1996 with a record of 32-23. In the season finale, NM State won two of three games versus Louisiana-Lafayette, who was a 2000 College World Series Final Four team.
In 2000, the Aggies finished 11th in the nation in doubles and led the Big West Conference, while ranking 21st nationally in scoring.
In 1999 Chris Barski, Luke Sullivan, Corey Richardson and Chris Weekly were all taken in the draft, which represented the most Aggies ever drafted in one year.
In 1998, the Aggies ranked fifth in the country in batting with its .351 team average and scored 10.35 runs per game to rank third in the country.
In 1997, Ward led the Aggies to a two-game sweep of the then No. 1 Texas Tech Red Raiders by scores of 12-11 and 19-17.
Ward came to Las Cruces from Kansas State, where he served two years as the hitting and infield coach and recruiting coordinator for the Wildcats from 1995-96. Prior to Kansas State, Ward spent the 1994 fall season as the top assistant coach at the University of Indianapolis. He served as the interim administrative assistant at Oklahoma State in the spring of 1994 before moving to Indianapolis.
A 1988 graduate of Oklahoma State, Ward played third base and catcher for the Cowboys from 1986 to 1988. The 1987 team finished as the runner-up at the College World Series, losing to Stanford in the championship game. The 1988 team ended its campaign with an amazing 61-8 record and was ranked No. 1 in the nation by Baseball America for a record 12 consecutive weeks. Ward was a two-time Phillips 66 Academic All-Big Eight selection during his three-year playing career at OSU.
He began his collegiate playing career at Connors State College in Warner, Okla., where he helped the squad to a 72-13 record in 1984. Ward transferred to Western Oklahoma State University in 1985.
In 1989, Ward created the Mid-America II Baseball Schools. Each year, he hosts a variety of camps that teach and fine-tune the baseball skills of America's youth. From 1988 through 1994, he served as the marketing director and an instructor for the Mid-America Baseball School.
Ward earned his bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State in 1988 and his master's at the University of Central Oklahoma in 1992. He spent some of his childhood growing up in Las Cruces while his father was working towards his master's degree at NM State. Ward is married to the former Jennifer Whitaker. The couple has three daughters, Emily (21), twin girls Malia (11) and Jorie (11), and two sons, Garrett (15) and Bradan (14).