Aggie Softball Ends Season With 2-0 Loss To Minnesota In NCAA Regional

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

TUCSON, AZ - The New Mexico State softball team defeated St. John’s (NY), 9-6, on Saturday at Hillenbrand Stadium, but later in the day lost for the second time in as many days to No. 11/15 Minnesota, 2-0, as the 2015 edition of Aggie softball was eliminated from the Tucson Regional and thus concluded the season.

The Aggies complete the greatest statistical season in program history. NM State broke softball school records in wins (47), winning percentage (.746), runs (465), hits (589), which it did on Saturday, home runs (103), doubles (100), RBIs (436), total bases (1,020), walks (283), team batting average (.348), slugging percentage (.602) and on-base percentage (.445).

The Aggies won the Western Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles for only the second time in 10 years in the conference to advance to the NCAA Regional round for the second time in program history.

“I think this was the greatest season in program history, and that’s attributed to a lot of people,” Aggie head coach Kathy Rodolph said. “You’ve got a staff that is all on one page and a group of seniors that are great leaders and the young ones that have great energy, and everybody is unselfish. So when you have all of that together, especially the unselfishness, good things happen.”

As is and was the character of the team throughout their magical season, the Aggies did not go down without a fight. For the third time this season the NM State bats were silenced by Minnesota pitcher and Player of the Year finalist Sara Groenewegen, who only allowed two Aggie hits on Saturday.

But WAC Freshman of the Year Dallas McBride matched one of the best pitchers in the nation pitch by pitch, only allowing a couple of runs, only one of them earned, after the Golden Gophers marked one run in the third and another in the fourth.

“I know Dallas didn’t feel great about her outing last night, so to turn around today and have that kind of outing against that team is really terrific, but that’s just the kind of player Dallas is,” Rodolph said.

McBride’s brilliant performance in the circle kept NM State in the game and gave them a puncher’s chance heading to the final inning. Although Groenewegen did not allow a hit in the final frame, the pressure and vociferous NM State crowd, which was out in full force all weekend in Tucson, seemed to throw her off her game as she walked Emma Adams and Staci Rodriguez to start the inning, putting the tying run on base.

With one out, senior Kelsey Dodd also drew a walk to load the bases, her 135th walk of her career, leaving her three shy of an Aggie record. NM State had the winning run on first base and with a hit away from extending its season to at least another inning. But Groenewegen showed why she is one of the best in the nation, striking out the final two Aggie hitters to end the game and the NM State season.

“We came out today with a real purpose and once we got through the St. John’s game I knew we would battle Minnesota a lot tougher, and we did,” Rodolph said. “We loaded the bases at the end of the game and we’ve come through in those situations a lot of times this year, but hats off to Groenewegen, she held us when it counted, it was a great battle.”

In the first game, St. John’s struck first with two runs in the top of the first, but the Aggies got one back in the bottom of the inning after a Finau RBI groundout brought in Rachel Rodriguez. Finau’s RBI left her one short of the single-season RBI record for NM State owned by Hoku Nohara who finished the 2011 season with 73 RBIs. Finau, however, would add a couple of more RBIs later in the game to jump over Nohara and set the RBI record.

Rachel Rodriguez, meanwhile, marked the first run for the Aggies and then in the second brought in two runs with a two-RBI double that gave NM State a 3-2 lead heading to the third. But the Red Storm quickly tied the game in the top of the third after solo shot by catcher Erin Burner.

St. John’s then retook the lead with a run in the fourth as the New Yorkers took a 4-3 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth.

With the Aggies nine outs away from elimination, the big inning they were looking for all weekend finally came to fruition in the bottom of the fifth as NM State plated four runs. The big inning didn’t come off the big Aggie bats, however. Instead the Aggies were aided by a couple of Red Storm errors as all four runs were unearned.

With two outs and a runner on first, St. John’s shortstop Monique Landini booted two-consecutive grounders to load the bases. Dodd followed with a two-RBI double to left center and Malena Padilla followed her with a two-RBI single as NM State took a 7-4 lead into the sixth inning.

Junior right-hander and Tucson native Makayla McAdams, who entered the game in relief of starter Karysta Donisthorpe, allowed a single to start off the top of the sixth, but sat down the next three batters en route to picking up the win. Finau, meanwhile, picked up her 73rd and 74th RBIs of the season in the bottom half of the frame to break the single-season record and pad the Aggie lead to five at 9-4.

The Red Storm would cross a couple of runs off of a home run, but it wouldn’t be enough as NM State advanced to its rematch with Minnesota.

Saturday was also the final game in an Aggie uniform for the five seniors, Staci Rodriguez, Malena Padilla, Kelsey Dodd, Lacey Rother and Nikki Diaz.

“You just don’t replace a Staci Rodriguez she is just a phenomenal player and kid,” Rodolph said. “Mo (Padilla) had a great career and so did Kelsey Dodd. Kelsey’s been steady every day of her career as an Aggie. Lacey was great transfer for us to get in here and Nikki is a great energy ambassador and was very central to our team chemistry.”