Highlights: Horton powers NMSU to 4th NCAA Regional, sets new home run record
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico State softball team closed its run at the 2018 Western Athletic Conference tournament at the NM State Softball Complex with a contest against fourth-seeded Grand Canyon on Saturday. The WAC Tournament's Most Valuable Player Kelsey Horton broke the NM State single-season record for home runs, helping the Aggies secure the 9-7 victory and their second-straight WAC Tournament title.
"I'm extremely proud of our group because everyone has accepted and embraced their role on this team," head coach Kathy Rodolph said. "Kelsey has led us all year but we've had a lot of contributions. It comes down to being selfless and doing what's best for the team."
NM State (29-22, 11-4 WAC) fell behind early when GCU (31-28; 8-6 WAC) posted a single and a double to bring in the first run of the day. However the Aggies tied the contest in the bottom of the frame when Victoria Castro laid down a sacrifice bunt with the bases loaded.
The offense stayed hot in the second for New Mexico State with Caity Szczesny and Rachel Rodriguez drawing back-to-back walks. Kelsey Horton broke the stalemate with an RBI single to the left side. Fahren Glackin posted a single of her own before Nikki Butler drove home a pair of runs with a single up the middle, giving the Aggies the 4-1 lead.
In the top of the third, starting pitcher Kayla Green hit trouble again when she allowed a single and a double to put a pair of Lopes into scoring position. Rodolph went to Samaria Diaz to contain the GCU rally but the sophomore allowed a home run, tying the game 4-4.
After a quiet third for NM State, the Aggies' bats came alive in the fourth when Rodriguez reached on a single. Horton followed with her 25th homer of the season, giving the Aggies the 6-4 lead. The rally continued when Glackin and Butler reached on a walk and a single. Castro brought home a run with a single of her own and a wild pitch by GCU scored the final run of the inning,
Holding the 8-4 lead, the Diaz struggled in the top of the fifth when she allowed a single and hit a batter. Rodolph brought in Mikayla Bongi to pitch for the first time in the tournament. She allowed a double to her first batter. The freshman gave a sacrifice fly and single to follow that brought the Lopes within a run.
NM State did not hold back in the bottom of the frame when Szczesny posted a one-out single and Horton reached on a walk. Glackin recorded a clutch double in the inning with Szczesny coming home on the play, giving the Aggies' 9-7 advantage.
Following the surge in the NM State's offense, Rodolph brought in Analise De La Roca to pitch for her squad. The freshman held strong in the circle, pitching a scoreless sixth before securing the 9-7 victory in the seventh and Aggies' second-straight tournament title.
Diaz picked up the win as she pitched 1.2 innings and allowed three runs on two hits. Green went 2.1 innings in her start and allowed three runs on six hits. Bongi pitched 1.0 inning in her tournament debut, allowing two hits and a run. De La Roca earned her first collegiate save when she pitched 2.0 innings and allowed just one hit.
Following the championship, the WAC All-Tournament Team was announced and four New Mexico State players received honors. Butler, Horton, Kennedy Johnson, and Rodriguez received the accolades with Horton taking home the coveted MVP award.
By claiming the tournament title, New Mexico State advances to the team's second-straight NCAA tournament and the fourth in program history. NM State is set to hold a selection show party that is open to the public at the Fulton Center on Sunday beginning at 7:30 p.m. (MT).
Brianna Aguilar-Beaucage, Grand Canyon
Bianca Boling, Grand Canyon
Kaylee Bott, Utah Valley
Nikki Butler, NM State
Madison Cathcart, Seattle U
Olivia Fluehr, Kansas City
Kendsey Hill, Grand Canyon
Kennedy Johnson, NM State
Rachel Rodriguez, NM State
Sierra Smith, Grand Canyon
MVP: Kelsey Horton, NM State