The Aggie softball team picked up their first conference series victory of the season this past weekend as they defeated Utah State on Friday night and then again in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader. Unfortunately the Aggies were eliminated from WAC Tournament contention prior to the start of their doubleheader when Louisiana Tech defeated Nevada in the first game of their doubleheader in Reno. What that means is that Saturday was the last time the Aggie seniors will play at home in Las Cruces and the 2012 season will come to an end this weekend in San Jose.
It has been a tumultuous second half of the season for the Aggies as they've battled injuries and illness, something that they mostly stayed clear of during last season's championship run. Unfortunately the breaks have not gone the Aggies way this season as they did last year and it just goes to show that there's a little bit of good fortune involved in any championship run.
The Aggies have lost six one-run games in conference play and three more games by three and two runs. Last season in conference play the Aggies won 10 games decided by three runs or fewer and they only lost three one-run games in conference play, all three coming in the final at-bat in the series at Hawai'i and the Aggies were a perfect 7-0 against WAC opponents in games decided by one run.
As bad as their 3-14 conference record may look on paper, they have been just as equally competitive this conference season as they were last season, however, their results in close games are the difference between being 3-14 and being 12-4 (which by the way would be a game out of first place).
The Aggie baseball team returns to action as they play a third consecutive game against Big 12 competition as they face Texas Tech. The Aggies lost both games at No. 1/3 Baylor this weekend but it was a valuable experience for the Aggies. Game one was an absolute pitcher's duel between two aces and it proved that the Aggies' ace Ryan Beck is every bit as good as any top pitcher in the country. His breaking ball on Friday night could only be described as "filthy" and the Baylor radio duo said it was probably the best breaking ball they'd seen this season.
Even though the Aggies lost both games they widened their lead in the league race thanks to some surprising results. Louisiana Tech picked themselves off the mat taking two of three from Hawai'i (and would have swept if not for a tough-luck loss that was eerily similar to their first loss in Las Cruces last weekend). Nevada took two of three from Fresno State and Sacramento State continued their surprisingly strong showing by taking two of three from San Jose State.
When the dust settled the Aggies found themselves with a two-game lead in the loss column over Hawai'i, this weekend's opponent, a two-game lead in the loss column over San Jose State (whom they'll face in San Jose in the final weekend of the season) and a three-game lead in the loss column over both Nevada and Sacramento State (but effectively a four-game lead because of their series victories over both).
As the Aggies enter the second half of league play they are now in full control of their own destiny in terms of the regular season title. Win three series and they will be the regular season champions. It's as simple as that.
Finally, some very bad news on the conference realignment front as now appears that UT-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech are headed to Conference USA and Utah State and San Jose State are headed to the Mountain West. There are also rumblings that a Sun Belt offer is imminent for Texas State. If it's all true (and we have no reason to believe that it's not) it leaves the WAC with just two football playing schools for the 2013 season and potentially just six all-sport schools (New Mexico State, Idaho, Denver, Seattle, Boise State and UT-Arlington).
We've seen earlier reports that stated UT-Arlington could reconsider their move to the WAC (i.e. stay in the Southland) should the WAC destabilize (which is now happening).
The next move could belong to Seattle and Denver. We think they'll make a big push to get into the West Coast Conference. The WCC recently expanded adding BYU (the fallout from the WAC's failed "Project") and will add Pacific for the 2013-14 athletic season. That would bring conference membership to 10. They could add Seattle (a fellow Jesuit school) and that would give Gonzaga a travel partner and they could add Denver (although not a Jesuit school, they are a private institution whose academic profile may line up with those of the WCC schools) and give BYU a travel partner.
Potential expansion targets for the WAC to remain a solvent non-football playing conference include: Cal State-Bakersfield (currently a Division I independent), Utah Valley (currently a member of the Great West Conference), New Orleans (has decided to stay in Division I), UT-Pan American and Houston Baptist (both also members of the Great West).
It will be interesting to see what happens over the next two months as June 30th approaches (the deadline for submitting intention to leave the conference).