Courtesy of NMSU
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State softball team shut out Utah Valley in both games of a doubleheader on Saturday to sweep the three-game series and begin Western Athletic Conference play at 3-0.
Each game lasted only five innings as the Aggies (27-11, 3-0 WAC) dominated Utah Valley (12-25, 0-3 WAC) in all aspects, winning game one 9-0 and game two 10-0. It is the second time this season NM State has earned back-to-back shutouts as it also did it in Las Vegas, defeating UNLV and Wisconsin in consecutive games.
“Any time you get to start conference play at home you have to take advantage of that and capitalize on it,” Aggie head coach Kathy Rodolph said. “We knew we really had to come out and really start aggressively, and we feel like we still have some work to do, but we’re playing well and capitalizing in key areas and coming through when we need to.”
Finau continues to have a breakout year for the Aggies. The junior belted a home run in each of the games on Saturday, including a walk-off long ball in game one, and finished with seven total RBIs. She now has a WAC-leading 14 home runs on the season, already tying her total from last season.
In the circle, freshman Dallas McBride and junior Makayla McAdams both pitched complete-game shutouts. McBride got the win in the opening game after pitching a one-hitter. It is the second complete-game one-hitter for the Scottsdale, Ariz., native. McAdams, meanwhile, earned her second complete-game win and her first shutout of the season.
“The highlight of the weekend is all three pitchers getting wins this weekend,” Rodolph said. “I feel like this is the most talented staff I’ve ever had and I was excited to see all three pitchers have strong contributions.”
Shortstop Haley Nakamura got things kick started immediately in game one as the leadoff hitter hit a double down the left-field line in the first. She would later score on an RBI single by Lacey Rother.
The Aggies would add a couple more runs in the second before breaking things wide open in the bottom half of the third after the Utah Valley pitching staff could not find the strike zone. The Wolverines walked seven batters, including six straight, in the inning as NM State plated four runs to take a 7-0 lead after three innings.
McBride, meanwhile, was totally dominant in the circle to improve to 7-5 on the season. She allowed a walk in each of the first two innings and hit a batter in the third, but those would be the only Utah Valley base runners through the first four innings as the left-hander took a no-hitter into the fifth.
Wolverine right fielder Erin Romero would spoil McBride’s no-hit bid after doubling to left center with one out in the top of the fifth. But McBride would bounce back and strike out the next two batters swinging.
With the Aggies needing only one run in the bottom of the fifth to run-rule the visitors, Brennalyn Nakamura started the inning with yet another walk and a couple of hitters later Finau came up and shot a blast over the center-field wall to end the game.
The pitching woes continued for Utah Valley at the start of the second game as starter Kailey Christensen, who received both losses after not getting out of the first inning in either game, walked the first three batters she faced. Those three batters, plus another, would later score as NM State took an early 4-0 lead after just one inning.
The other six runs for the Aggies in game two would come in the third inning as the Wolverines just could not find the strike zone, and when they did, NM State made them pay for it.
After yet another walk, freshman Nue Sivia came up and belted her first-career home run as an Aggie to mark the first two runs of the inning. Two more walks ensued before Staci Rodriguez came up and hit an RBI double to left field. With two runners on, Finau followed with her second home run of the day, a three-run shot to left field that closed out the scoring on the day.
Even though the Aggies had plated 10 runs in the first three innings, they only really needed the first one, as McAdams spread out five hits and held Utah Valley scoreless en route to collecting her sixth win of the season (6-3).
NM State now hits the road for the first time in the WAC schedule as the team travels to Seattle, Wash., to take on Seattle U. The two teams will play a doubleheader on Friday, Apr. 3, and a single game on Saturday, Apr. 4. The Aggies next play at home on Monday, Apr. 6, when they welcome top-20 Arizona State for a doubleheader at the NM State Softball Complex.