The Daily Aggie

The Daily Aggie :: 05/25/12

The Aggie baseball team lost their opening round game of the WAC tournament last night falling 15-8 to Fresno State. The Aggies and Bulldogs were scoreless through one before a couple of cheap singles was followed by three Aggie errors, two by shortstop Zach Voight on the same play (fielding plus throwing) on a fairly routine grounder and a throwing error by third baseman Bobby Lecount on a bunt. When the dust settled the errors plus the Bulldog batters lining up some Ryan Beck offerings led to a 10-0 deficit for New Mexico State. Not the start the Aggies were looking for. Fresno State added a couple more runs in the third and it appeared that after just three innings that the game was over.

The Aggies headed into the bottom of the sixth down 12-0 but put together a 6-run rally to cut the deficit to 12-6, all six runs coming with two outs. The Aggies actually stranded runners on second and third and had they been able to get one more base hit, there's a distinct possibility that the Aggies could have come back and won the game. The Aggies and Bulldogs would go on to trade runs back and forth the remainder of the game.

There are a few of positives that you can take away from the loss. The first, the Aggies used nine pitchers in the game and nobody on the staff should be unavailable the rest of the way, this includes starter Ryan Beck who lasted just an inning and a third and threw 38 pitches.

Second, the Aggies rallied. It would have been easy for the team to pack it in and let the game end via run-rule in the seventh and strategically it would have made sense, just from a pitching perspective. However, going into an elimination game coming off a 12-0 loss feels much different than going into an elimination game off a 15-8 loss. The Aggies would have been still trying to "get into" the tournament had they been shut out and run-ruled. Instead the Aggies go into this morning's elimination game with at least a small amount of momentum (and the Aggie pitching staff gave up just three runs in the final six innings).

The one other silver lining is that the Aggies should have the pitching advantage this morning and should they win the game they'd also figure to have the pitching advantage this afternoon. Both Louisiana Tech and Nevada have both used their top two starters (though we wouldn't rule out Nevada bringing Jameson back this afternoon for some relief work as he left five innings of work throwing just 81 pitches).

What do the Aggies need to do this morning? Get out in front. Don't give Louisiana Tech any measure of hope. This is a Bulldog team that probably feels like they owe the Aggies after losing a pair of walk-off games and a run-rule game in Las Cruces. The Aggies need an A+ performance out of First Team All-WAC pitcher Adam Mott and the Aggie bats need to strike early and often.

If the Aggies can just figure out a way to survive today's elimination games, they can feel at least a little better about their at-large chances in the NCAA tournament.

Today's first elimination game is scheduled for a 12:00 p.m. (MDT) first pitch. Should the Aggies win that game they would face Nevada at 4:00 p.m. (MDT).

The Daily Aggie :: 05/24/12

The Aggie baseball team opens the 2012 WAC Baseball Tournament tonight at 8:00 p.m. (MDT) against 5-seed Fresno State. The Bulldogs defeated 4-seed Hawai'i 8-2 yesterday riding a six-run sixth inning to victory.

As the top seed the Aggies will have seen a total of four games completed, including an elimination game today, before they even take the field. Head Coach Rocky Ward has talked to his ball club about that and has stressed the importance of "bringing it" from an energy level standpoint from the first pitch. "The only disadvantage of being the one seed is you don't play until game five. Each of the teams has played a game before you've taken the field. We've talked about it with the team and you have to come ready right off the bat," Ward has told his team. "You don't have time to ease your way into the tournament. You have to probably play harder in the first four or five innings then you have to at any point in the tournament. More focused, more determined. The first four or five innings will be pretty important to us. We need Ryan Beck to bring his stuff and we need the offense to get after them."

The good news for the Aggies is that during their last five games the Aggies have scored in the first three innings and grabbed leads and in four of the last five they've scored in the first inning. That will be a huge key for them in today's game. Get to the top side early. The Aggies only led once during the regular season series with Fresno State and that was after shortstop Zach Voight's walk-off home run in game two that gave them the 2-1 victory (during which he strained his ankled in the celebration).

Voight is expected to be back and starting tonight's game at shortstop. Ward said Voight experienced some soreness yesterday but will be ready to go tonight. "He was a little sore yesterday but we just got through working out and he looks good," said Ward. "Ankle strains are a unique thing and sometimes if you stay off of them a couple days it's worse. We had an opportunity for him to stay off of it which gave him some healing time, which was beneficial, but it also got a little bit tight and a little bit sore. Today he looked good. We expect him to be back in the lineup and in the four-hole and we expect him to play shortstop."

One big advantage the Aggies will have is that as the top seed they will be the home team in tonight's game and they will have the final at-bat which in tournament play can be huge. "This club will feel like no matter where we are we'll have a pretty good opportunity," said Coach Ward. "I think all of those things you try to build in a baseball team over the course of the season, we've done that. We've come down from big deficits, we've given up leads late and been able to come back and stabilize ourselves and win. We've won with pitching, we've won with defense, we've won with offense. All of those things bode well for us."

The Aggies will send ace Ryan Beck (5-5, 4.08 ERA, 90.1 IP) to the mound while Fresno State will counter with Justin Haley (6-3, 2.62 ERA, 78.2 IP). Haley pitched 7.0 innings allowing just five hits, walking six and striking out nine in Las Cruces. The Aggies are a different team than the one that faced Fresno State in Las Cruces. It might sound funny to say that since it was just two weekends ago but the Aggies have their offensive mojo back and the bottom of the order is producing once again. "We had some guys that were really struggling," said Ward. Karraker, Phillips in particular, Snowley and Rust, those four guys in the bottom of our lineup who had been so good through the first two-thirds of the season, which is what made us such a great offensive team, the quality that we were getting out of the bottom of the lineup, they were all struggling during that period. In the last five games all of those guys have been swinging the bat really well."

First pitch for tonight's game will begin at 8:00 p.m. (MDT) and can be heard on KSNM AM 570, streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required) and can be seen streaming online via WAC.tv (subscription required).

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The Daily Aggie :: 05/21/12

The Aggie baseball team are WAC regular season champions. New Mexico State finished off San Jose State yesterday afternoon winning 15-2 in a run-rule shortened seven inning game. It's the Aggies' first regular season championship and the second step towards earning an NCAA Regional bid (the first step was completing a successful non-conference season against this schedule which they did). We asked Coach Ward for his thoughts on the regular season title, "Regular season champions, it just puts you in a different classification," said Ward after the win. "People look at you differently after you've been a champion and it changes recruiting, it just changes a lot of things. It just gives you a badge of honor that you get to wear around the rest of your life."

"I'm a big guy on firsts and I think the hardest thing to do is to do anything the first time. We've done a ton of first things in New Mexico State baseball history and to add another thing is great. We already have a conference tournament championship but to add a regular season championship and really that's probably more impressive because it's less random. It's over the course of the whole season."

Yesterday's championship clinching win was also important for several other reasons. First and most importantly is it gives the Aggies a first round bye and an extra day of rest. This is an Aggie ball club that has played eight games in the last nine days with just two days off, Monday and Thursday. The Aggies' pitching staff and in particular senior closer Scott Coffman (9.1 IP in that stretch) needed the rest. It also gives the Aggies an extra day of rest for shortstop Zach Voight to rehab his ankle.

We spoke with Coach Ward after yesterday's win and that the feeling with the club was the polar opposite of how they felt after the loss to UNM on Tuesday night in which he felt like the team had lost out on something special with a chance to tie the Rio Grande Rivalry standings, win his 400th game, sweep the in-state rivals. "There was a whole bunch to gain. Had we lost this game we would have been the four seed and had to play on Wednesday instead of Thursday. There was just a whole bunch on the line and in order to get it and be the WAC champion, that's a big deal," said Ward. "But more than anything to give us an extra days rest, to give us the advantage in the tournament, to put us in the premiere game on Thursday night. "

Back to the Aggies' situation at shortstop. We really cannot say enough about the way Bryce Griffin has stepped in and played in Zach Voight's absence. Not only has Griffin played outstandingly on defense, he has proven that he won't be an easy out at the bottom of the lineup. From Tuesday through yesterday's game against SJSU Griffin is 5-for-16 (.313) with two RBIs, two walks and at least one sacrifice bunt. Any manager in the country would take that from their nine-hole hitter, guaranteed.

"He's given us a great run," said Coach Ward. "He's played real quality defense which is what his job was and today he has a breakthrough day with the bat and had some key base hits. I'm really, really proud of the kid. It's very difficult to sit and not get very much playing time because Zach is one of our best players and to have to fill those shoes... He did a great job in those games."

Griffin's performance over the past week has also strengthened the team from the standpoint that the Aggies feel like even if Zach Voight re-injures his ankle (which we certainly hope will not be the case) they won't see too much of a drop-off. "Voight wanted to play today and was probably playable but I said, "No, the kid's [Griffin] been doing exactly what I wanted him to do and if he can play with Griffin another game, he's earned the right to and I can give you three or four more days rest then that will mean a lot to us."", said Ward. "That's exactly what we were able to do. Not only did he come in and fill a hole, you feel like that if Zach goes and twists it again, we're not going to miss a beat in a conference tournament or regional tournament. We're very, very pleased with what Bryce Griffin was able to do and he can be very, very proud of himself."

In winning their share of the regular season title the Aggies played just about as well as they could have played. In four games in California (including the non-conference tilt against CSU-Bakersfield) the Aggies did not trail at any point in the four games and they led for 32 of the 34 innings they played with only the first two innings yesterday being the exception (0-0 tie through two). If anyone thinks that the Aggies backed into their title they are sorely mistaken. The Aggies had to do one of the most difficult things in baseball and that is to sweep a road series in conference play. They had to win when everything was on the line. You can ask Nevada and Hawai'i how easy that is. All Hawai'i had to do was win a couple games at Sacramento State two weekends ago but they were swept. All Nevada had to do was win on Saturday night and they would have been solo champions but instead they lost 8-3.

After a three-week battle that saw the Aggies lose nine out of ten games, New Mexico State very well may be the hottest team in the league heading into the tournament. They've won four in a row and five out of their last seven games and some of the players that might have been slumping are now suddenly red-hot.

"You just feel like all the things that you talk about-- getting momentum going into the tournament, meeting the goals we had at the beginning of the year, it all happened and all came down to one game," said Ward. "It was really an all-or-nothing type game much like a conference championship game or regional championship game might be."

"We had four or five hitters that were really struggling. We feel like those guys, Phillips, Lecount, Snowley, Rust, all of those guys got themselves healthy," said Ward. "They all had key base hits and key defensive plays over the last few days."

The Aggies won't know their opponent until late Wednesday night. The top seed in the tournament gets the lowest remaining seed in the winner's bracket. They could get one of three opponents, 6-seed Louisiana Tech, 5-seed Fresno State or 4-seed Hawai'i. The one opponent they won't get is 3-seed Nevada. Sacramento State, the 2-seed, will draw the highest remaining team in the winner's bracket from Wednesday's games.

Going back to the importance of yesterday's win it gives the Aggies the ability to throw Ryan Beck on Thursday (nearly a full week of rest) and then they have the option of either throwing Adam Mott or Michael Ormseth (who only had to throw 70 pitches yesterday) depending on their opponent on Friday.

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The Daily Aggie :: 05/20/12

Championship Sunday. Nothing that has happened over the last three weeks matters now. What matters is that the Aggies, despite losing seven in a row including 5-of-6 in WAC play, hold destiny in their own hands. The Aggies came to San Jose needing to sweep the series and also needing Hawai'i to take two-of-three from Nevada to give them a shot at a share of the regular season championship and the number one seed in next week's WAC Tournament. The Warriors held up their end of the bargain and through two games the Aggies have done what they needed to do.

It all comes down to today's game. Win the game and the Aggies will be co-champions with Nevada and Sacramento State (the Aggies took series from both of the teams) and earn the top seed and a first round bye (and would not have to play until Friday). Lose the game and the Aggies will fall to the 4-seed and would face Fresno State in the first round on Wednesday.

The Aggies will send Michael Ormseth to the mound and the Spartans will likely counter with Zach Jones. It'll be all hands on deck for the Spartans as they've been eliminated from conference tournament contention and what remains to be seen is if it will be all hands on deck for the Aggies. It's an interesting position because should they lose, they'll have to turn around and play on Wednesday but the extra rest that would come from winning tomorrow would be invaluable (the Aggie pitching staff has pitched a ton of innings and thrown a lot of pitches over the past 10 days including a pair of extra innings games). In particular closer Scott Coffman has pitched a lot of innings, 4.2 against Fresno State last Saturday, 2.0 against New Mexico on Tuesday, 1.1 against SJSU on Friday and 1.0 last night against the Spartans. One fourth of his innings pitched have come in the last week. The Aggies are going to need a fully rested Coffman for the WAC tournament.

The biggest key to this series so far has been the Aggies ability to score early and put pressure on San Jose State. If the Aggie can do that again today, we like the Aggies' chances.

The game is scheduled for a 2:00 p.m. (MDT) first pitch and can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces and online via Aggie Access (subscription required).  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 05/19/12

The Aggie baseball team kept their regular season championship hopes alive last night winning 3-1 in San Jose. Hawai'i lost to Nevada last night eliminating them from regular season championship contention, however, the Aggies need Hawai'i to win tonight (along with an Aggie win) to keep the Aggies' regular season championship hopes alive. A Nevada win would give them the outright regular season title. The Aggies still would have plenty to play for since a sweep would give them the 2-seed and a first round bye in the WAC tournament next week.

Last night Aggie ace Ryan Beck was outstanding throwing seven and two-thirds innings of three-hit baseball. He gave up a solo home run but for the most part managed to stay out of trouble. The Aggie defense played flawlessly behind him and that level of clean baseball will be important not only the rest of the weekend but into next week in the WAC tournament and into a potential regional the following weekend.  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 05/18/12

The Aggie baseball team kicks off the final regular season series of the year tonight in San Jose as they take on the Spartans. The Aggies got a little bit of the help they needed from Hawai'i as the Warriors defeated Nevada 2-0 last night drawing both Hawai'i, Nevada and Sacramento State to within a game of the Wolf Pack in the loss column. The Aggies need the two teams to split the remaining to games while winning all three against the Spartans.

SJSU finds itself in a bit of the same situation that the Aggies do of late. The Spartans were swept on the road in Reno against Nevada last weekend and split a pair of midweek games against UC-Davis (one of them a continuation game) and have lost 12 of their last 16 games. Depending on what happens in the series between Louisiana Tech and Fresno State in Fresno this weekend the Spartans could find themselves out of the WAC tournament.

For the Aggies it's been a difficult three week stretch but the team is showing signs of pulling out of their offensive slump. The Aggies have put together a three game stretch in which they've pounded out 40 base hits and have scored seven, ten and five runs respectively. Offense will be the key to the series against San Jose State. The Spartans are averaging just 3.3 runs per game in their last 12 losses. If the Aggies can get to the top side of the game early and keep pressure on the Spartan pitching staff it will be difficult for the Spartans to make up that ground. In those 12 losses the Spartans have scored more than five runs just once.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. (MDT) first pitch and can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces and streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Aggie football team landed nine players on the 2012 Phil Steele Preseason All-WAC squads. Davonte Wallace (OL) and Walton Taumoepeau (DL) were on the First Team, Kevan Walker (WR), Kemonte Bateman (WR), Andrew Kersten (OL), Donte Savage (DL) and Bryan Bonilla (LB) made Second Team and Andrew Manley (QB) and Tyler Stampler (K) made Third Team.

It's interesting to note that of the preseason All-Conference picks for the Aggies, Walker (Coach Walker's son) and Savage did not play a snap for the Aggies last season and Manley did not play at all after the UTEP game.

The Daily Aggie :: 05/16/12

The Aggie baseball team lost a heartbreaker last night in Albuquerque on a 2-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. The loss was the Aggies' ninth in their past ten game as the losses keep coming in new and interesting ways. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this late slide has been the Aggies have not played poorly. Last night, as has been the case throughout this losing stretch, they just were unable to capitalize on a few opportunities and saw the opposing team take advantage of a couple of Aggie miscues late. The Aggies led the game early 4-0 and then 4-2 but then fell behind 7-4 after a somewhat controversial safe call on a double-play ball that would have gotten the Aggies out of the inning leading 4-3 but instead four more runs came across after the called.

The Aggies rallied to tie the game in the top of the seventh, led 9-7 in the top of the eighth and brought in closer Scott Coffman but gave up two runs after two errors on the Aggies (including one by Coffman) in the bottom of the eighth allowed UNM to tie the game, led again 10-9 but another error in the bottom of the ninth allowed the game-tying run to score.

This was a well played game but certainly one that the Aggies feel like slipped through their fingers. The Aggies left the bases loaded in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings and really could have blown the game open with a couple of base hits in there.

The one bright spot for the Aggies is that their offense looks like it's starting to come around just in time for the final weekend of conference play and the conference tournament. After scoring two runs or fewer in five straight games, the Aggies have put together a seven run and a ten run game and have 30 base hits in the last two games. The key to them winning games again will be their ability to start hitting getting those hits with runners in scoring position.

The Aggies have a quick turnaround as they face Cal State-Bakersfield tonight at 7:00 p.m. (MDT) in Bakersfield before heading on to San Jose to close out the regular season with a three game series starting Friday.

Last night was a bad night for WAC teams as all three teams in action lost. The Aggies and Louisiana Tech both lost in extra innings and San Jose State lost to UC-Davis.

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The Daily Aggie :: 05/15/12

The Aggie baseball team heads to Albuquerque today to take on the Lobos in the final game of this year's Rio Grande Rivalry series. The Aggies have won the first three meetings and have clinched the series and are now looking for a clean sweep of the Lobos. The Aggies are also looking to generate some positive momentum as they head into the final week of the regular season after what has been a rough couple of weeks on the diamond.

Losers of eight of their past nine games, the Aggies have fallen victim to some bad baseball luck in addition to a bit of a slump offensively (and in the middle relief). Every series the Aggies have played has seen them suffer at least one unlucky play or bad bounce that has completely changed the complexion of a game or in some cases a series. It all started at Baylor in the second game of the series. The Aggies led the top ranked Bears 4-2 and appeared to have a double play which would have ended a Baylor threat. Instead, an egregiously bad call by the first base umpire (and we mean egregiously bad, one of the worst calls of the season in any sport the Aggies have played) kept the inning alive for Baylor and the floodgates opened. The Aggies would eventually lose the game 14-4. Would the Aggies have won that game? Who knows, but the Aggie offense had the Baylor starting pitcher under constant pressure and that inning allowed the Bears to stabilize the game in their favor.

The Aggies were the victim of some terrible, terrible luck in the first game in Hawai'i as Ryan Beck had to work a five-out inning (it's the first five-out, three strikeout inning we've ever seen). Beck recorded a strikeout for the final out of the inning but the pitch got away from catcher Zac Fisher. The Aggies would have been able to record the out down at first base, however, the batter's bat hit the ball causing it to carom away from Fisher and toward the Hawai'i dugout and it allowed the runner at second to advance to third. Fisher again recorded the third out of the inning on the very next batter but again a wild pitch on the strikeout allowed the runner to not only reach base but allowed the runner at third to advance home and score and in a series at Hawai'i where runs are at a premium, those kind of bad bounces can be costly.

Finally, this weekend the Aggies got a walk-off home run from Zach Voight in the bottom of the 12th inning against Fresno State. What could possibly be bad luck about a walk-off? Well, in the ensuing celebration, Voight suffered a severely sprained ankle and is now out for an undetermined amount of time. Voight has been the anchor in the infield this season and has also be one of the Aggies' leaders on the field.

As we noted with Aggie softball earlier this season, sports are fickle and a bounce here or there in your favor can completely change the complexion of a game, a streak, a season and unfortunately for the past three weekends, the bounces have gone away from the Aggies.

The good news is that the Aggies can turn things around starting today and they still have a shot at winning the regular season title if they can sweep San Jose State this weekend. Sports also seems to be somewhat cyclical and often times shows a little bit of symmetry and the last time the Aggies were mired in a bit of a down cycle offensively, they bounced back with a 16-12 victory over the Lobos in Las Cruces. Three games later they would start their school-record winning streak.

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 6:05 p.m. first pitch and can be heard on KSNM AM 570 and online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

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The Daily Aggie :: 05/13/12 :: Aggie Baseball Seeding Scenarios

The 2012 WAC baseball regular season race comes to a close this week with six of the seven teams finishing up their final three game series. As usual it's been a wild and wacky race and as is nearly always the case, the tournament field is neither set nor has the regular season champion been determined. The WAC lead has been bounced around like a hot potato with nobody willing to take hold of it.

As a refresher the preseason coaches poll looked like this: 1) Fresno State, 2) San Jose State, 3) Hawai'i, T4) New Mexico State and Nevada, 6) Louisiana Tech, 7) Sacramento State.

As we head into the final weekend of play, Sacramento State is the leader in the clubhouse at 11-7 and will make their first WAC Tournament appearance since 2008. At 10-5 Nevada is the only team that controls their own destiny in terms of the regular season title. A series victory by the Wolf Pack over Hawai'i this week gives them the regular season title. Both New Mexico State and Hawai'i have seen their grasp on the regular season title slip through their fingers. The Aggies have lost 5-of-6 over the past two weeks to slip from first all the way into a tie for third with Hawai'i and the Warriors hold the head-to-head tiebreaker due to their series sweep. Likewise the Warriors saw their regular season title hopes take a massive hit as they were swept by Sacramento State and like the Aggies, fell from first to third.

At the bottom of the league sits San Jose State (5-10), Fresno State (6-9) and Louisiana Tech (6-9). The three teams will battle for the final two spots in the tournament with the winner of the Battle of the Bone (Louisiana Tech at Fresno State) securing one of those two spots. The loser could still make the tournament but their fate will also be determined by what happens in the New Mexico State vs. San Jose State series.

So the final three series in conference play look like this:

Nevada (10-5) vs. Hawai'i (8-7)
San Jose State (5-10) vs. New Mexico State (8-7)
Fresno State (6-9) vs. Louisiana Tech (6-9)

For the Aggies to win a share of the regular season title they will need to sweep San Jose State and have Hawai'i take at least two of three from Nevada.

Here are our projected seedings based on the Aggies' potential record in the final series.  Continue Reading This Post >>

The Daily Aggie :: 05/10/12

UPDATE:The baseball game between New Mexico State and Fresno State scheduled for 6:05p.m. today has been postponed due to inclement weather conditions. The game is now scheduled as part of a doubleheader that is set for 3 p.m. (MDT), Friday, May 11 at Presley Askew Field.

The New Mexico State baseball team returns to action tonight as they look to snap a 6-game losing streak that has seen them fall from first place in the WAC. The Aggies host perennial WAC power Fresno State for a three game series. The Bulldogs are having a down year, they currently sit in last place in the league, however, despite that fact this is a very dangerous team. In fact, Fresno State's been here before. Back in 2008 the Bulldogs sat in last place heading into the final weekend of WAC play and were on the verge of not even making the WAC tournament. What happened? They split with Sacramento State, got into the WAC tournament, beat the Aggies twice on championship Sunday in Honolulu and went on to win the national championship. Had they lost even one of those games against Sac State they would have been out of the tournament.

That is what the Aggies are dealing with this weekend, a team with its back against the wall just looking to get into the tournament and do some damage. This is a big weekend for the Aggies. A series victory will likely keep them on pace with Hawai'i and depending on what happens in the series between Hawai'i and Sacramento State, it could put them back into a tie for first (or even potentially in solo first place). While a regular season title is still well within reach for the Aggies, it's also important that they not slip below second place The top two teams in the regular season standings earn first round byes in the conference tournament and that could be a big advantage for New Mexico State given their excellent one-two punch of starters Ryan Beck and Michael Ormseth.

One player to watch for on the Fresno State team is outfielder Aaron Judge. You can't miss him, he's a 6'7" beast and is surprisingly fleet of foot for someone his size (he's 11-for-12 stealing bases this season which leads the team). He also gets a good breaks on the ball in the outfield.

The Aggies are going to need solid outings from their starting pitching and will definitely need better middle relief pitching than what they've been getting in the second half of the season (the slide really started in the third game of the Sacramento State series).

Tonight's game is scheduled for a 6:05 p.m. first pitch, weather permitting. Yesterday's WAC softball tournament saw a few delays due to rain and lightning. The game can be heard on KSNM AM 570 with streaming audio and video available via Aggie Access.  Continue Reading This Post >>