Courtesy of NMSU
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State softball team got to 35 wins on Tuesday after defeating its in-state rival New Mexico for the second time this season, a 4-2 decision at the NM State Softball Complex.
Freshman Dallas McBride, fresh off of being named the Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week, started in the circle for the Aggies (35-12) and pitched five innings while only allowing four hits and two runs to improve to 11-5 on the season. McBride struck out seven Lobos (24-21), tying a career high.
Karysta Donisthorpe came on in relief and got the final six outs to receive her second save of the season.
At the plate, Fiana Finau provided all the offense NM State needed as the junior slammed her WAC-leading 19th home run of the season, a three-run shot to left field that capped off a four-run third inning, the only inning the Aggies would score in.
Finau, who was sixth in the country in home runs coming into the game, is closing in on second place on the all-time NM State home runs in a season list. That position is owned by her teammate Staci Rodriguez who hit 20 home runs in 2013. The all-time leader is Hoku Nohara who slammed 24 home runs in 2011.
With the home run, Finau also broke a tie with former Aggie Angie Ortega on the NM State career home run list. She now stands alone in fifth place on the list with 33 career home runs.
“It’s always great to sweep a rivalry series,” Aggie head coach Kathy Rodolph said. “I thought Dallas and Karysta did a nice job of sticking to the game plan. We did enough offensively, but we weren’t as sharp as we typically have been with runners in scoring position. I know the team feels the same way and we will focus on that tomorrow.”
McBride rolled through the UNM lineup in the first four innings, allowing only one hit and three walks to the Lobos. But the Aggies were also stymied by UNM starter Carrie Sheehan in the first two innings as the NM State offense could not get a single hit.
The game remained scoreless heading to the bottom of the third, but a couple of Aggie swings would finally provide some scoring. The inning started innocently with a Lacey Rother walk. With one out, however, Misty Hoohuli, who was pinch running for Rother, would score on a Brennalyn Nakamura RBI double.
Third baseman Emma Adams was then hit by a pitch for the second-consecutive time, and after a Rodriguez flyout Finau came up and belted a shot that easily cleared the fence by at least 20 yards. It was the fourth game in a row with a home run for Finau who earlier this season broke a WAC record by hitting a long ball in six-straight games.
McBride, meanwhile, kept rolling in the top half of the fifth, striking out two more Lobos while putting the visitors down in order. Leading 4-0, it seemed NM State would break the game wide open and maybe even finish it off in the bottom of the fifth as the first three Aggie batters walked to load the bases with no outs. But after a fielder’s choice, strikeout and pop-up NM State did not cross a single run across the plate.
The missed opportunity immediately came back to hurt the home team as UNM cut the lead in half after a two-run home run by center fielder Mariah Rimmer made it 4-2 in the top of the sixth. McBride would allow a single to the following batter before being pulled for Donisthorpe.
The redshirt junior came in and shut the door on the Lobos, getting an out on a sacrifice bunt before striking out the next two batters to quickly diffuse the UNM rally. Donisthorpe would then proceed to mow down the Lobos in order in the final inning as the Aggies took both games this season from their in-state rivals.
NM State now gets back to conference play as they head to Bakersfield, Calif., for a three-game series versus CSU-Bakersfield. The Aggies, who are 9-0 in the WAC, will try to remain perfect in WAC play and also clinch the No. 1 seed for the WAC Tournament, which they can do by simply winning one game in California.
The series begins with a doubleheader on Friday beginning at 1 p.m. (MDT) and concludes with a single game on Saturday at 2 p.m.