Courtesy of NMSU
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State softball team took two games from Bakersfield on Saturday, 7-4 and 18-10 in six innings, to add the 2015 Western Athletic Conference Tournament title to its WAC regular-season championship.
After losing to the ‘Runners (21-25) on Friday, the Aggies (45-14) had to win three-straight games to take their second WAC Tournament crown in program history. NM State easily handled Utah Valley 18-3 in five innings during Friday’s nightcap to reach the championship series on Saturday where they came from behind in game one to stave off elimination before winning a barnburner in the final game of the tournament.
The Aggies now automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament next week, their second appearance to the NCAA Regionals.
“First, hats off to Bakersfield, they fought us hard every pitch,” NM State head coach Kathy Rodolph said. “I am very proud of our fight today. We knew it was possible if we battled together one pitch at a time. This is one of the best hitting teams in the country. We have all the tools and today we used them”
Junior third baseman Emma Adams hit a total of three home runs on Saturday and finished the tournament with four, tying a tournament record, en route to winning the tournament MVP. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Staci Rodriguez, Kelsey Dodd and Dallas McBride.
Along with her four home runs, Adams also added two doubles and 12 RBIs while hitting .714 with a .722 on-base percentage and a 1.714 slugging percentage.
“Emma Adams was clutch and fearless the entire tournament,” Rodolph said. “She was in the middle of every key moment or turning point.”
With the two wins, the Aggies break the program record for most wins in a season with 45, breaking the previous record of 44 set in 2011.
Individually, Rodriguez scored a total of four runs. She now has 191 total runs scored in her career, the most by any Aggie softball player in program history. Junior Fiana Finau, meanwhile, slammed her 24th home run this season, tying Hoku Nohara for the NM State record for most home runs in a season.
McBride started both games in the circle for the Aggies, picking up the win in game one after a career-high nine strikeouts, her third win of the tournament. She then pitched 4.1 innings in the game-two victory.
Adams began her stellar day by hitting a two-run home run in the first inning of game one, giving NM State an early lead. But the ‘Runners would mark four runs over the next three innings to take a 4-2 lead after four innings.
With three innings left in their season, the Aggies mounted a rally with five runs over the next two innings. Three runs came across in the bottom of the fifth as NM State retook the lead 5-4. That lead was extended after Rodriguez slammed her 14th home run of the season and 54th of her career the following inning, a two-run shot to left field. McBride would get the distance to improve to 18-5 on the season as NM State survived game one to force a final and deciding game.
That game would not be a pitching duel as both teams combined for 28 runs and 29 hits. The Aggies by themselves would score 16 runs in the last three innings. NM State would bat first in the game as the visiting team, and Adams again started the game off with a two-run homer.
Bakersfield would counter with three runs in the bottom of the second to take a 3-2 lead. The Aggies would get back-to-back home runs from Malena Padilla and Tatum Reedy in the top of the fourth, however, to regain the lead at 5-3.
After a Bakersfield run in the bottom of the inning, NM State slammed three home runs in the fifth, including once again going back-to-back. This time it would be Adams and Rodriguez who hit consecutive home runs. Finau would add her record-tying blast a batter later to give the Aggies an 8-4 lead.
But the ‘Runners also wanted a trip to the NCAA Regionals and responded with four runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game at eight. NM State had an answer, however, as it batted around in the top of the sixth, scoring another 10 runs with the big shot coming off of a Dodd grand slam.
After taking an 18-8 lead, the Aggies were within three outs of run-ruling Bakersfield and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The ‘Runners marked two runs in the bottom of the sixth but could get no closer as NM State took home its second WAC Tournament crown.
The Aggies find out who and where they will be playing in the regionals on Sunday as the NCAA will reveal the bracket live at starting at 8 p.m. (MT). NM State will be hosting a watch party at The Game Bar and Grill on Espina Street. All fans are invited to come out and join the team to find out where they are headed.