After winning the 2011 NCAA batting title and winning 30-plus games for the third straight season, New Mexico State head baseball coach Rocky Ward has released the 2012 schedule, which features 31 home games and six teams that made it to the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
NM State produced a 34-24 record in 2011 while wining 26 of those games at home in Presley Askew Field. The Aggies face six teams that reached the NCAA Regionals in 2011 including Sacred Heart and Kent State at home. Head coach Rocky Ward expects his team to be competitive with every opponent in 2012.
"Our strength of schedule is the best it has been in the past several years and we expect it to prepare us well for the final year of the old WAC" Ward said.
NM State is scheduled to play 31 home games in 2012 and open up with a four-game series against Wake Forest Feb. 17-19. Wake Forest is coach by Tom Walter, former coach of the Univerisity of New Orleans baseball team.
Ward mentioned the series with Wake Forest as a highlight of the season because his team is honored to play against Walter, who, in 2006, was able to guide the Privateers to a 30-28 record, despite having to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Walter re-located the team to Las Cruces, New Mexico for the fall semester.
"We have a great home schedule, besides the Wake Forest games," Ward said. "Kent State and Sacred Heart were regional teams last year and we get our huge rivals at home with series against Fresno and Nevada."
Other teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season that are on the 2012 Aggie baseball schedule include Rice, Arizona, Baylor and in-state rival New Mexico, who went on a hot streak to win the Mountain West Conference tournament and reach the NCAA Tournament.
"We are also excited about making trips to Rice, Minnesota, Arizona and Baylor. These road games will be a stiff challenge for what we expect to be a very good Aggie baseball team," Ward said. "I am especially excited about playing in the Metrodome on the Minnesota trip. It will be a great experience for our kids to play four games indoors."
After the opening series, NM State heads to Houston, Texas to take on Rice, who won 42 games, Feb. 21-22 before facing Sacred Heart for four-games at Presley Askew Field, Feb. 24-26. The Sacred Heart Pioneers won a program-high 34 games in 2011.
Following the series with the Pioneers, NM State heads to Minneapolis for two-games against Minnesota and a game versus Nebraska. Both Minnesota and Nebraska are out of the Big 10 while the Aggies will also take on West Virginia, who is from the Big East, in Minneapolis.
NM State then returns home for its first of three games versus the Lobos. The Aggies take Rio Grande Rival UNM four different times including March 6 and April 3 at home, while playing in Albuquerque on March 13 and May 15.
The Aggies have three consecutive home weekend series starting March 9-11 with Kent State, March 16-18 versus Southeast Missouri State and finishing with Texas-Pan American. NM State faces Arizona (3/20-21) and Texas Tech (3/27) in midweek games during March and end the month with an open date.
The 2012 Western Athletic Conference season opens at home when the Aggies face Nevada April 5-6. The WAC changed its format and will now play three-games instead of a four-game series. NM State heads to the road April 13-15 to play Sacramento State in Sacramento, Calif. and return to play Louisiana Tech, April 19-21.
The Aggies take a week off of conference play to take on Baylor, April 27-28 and play a home non-conference game against Texas Tech, May 1. NM State takes on Hawaii in Honolulu, May 3-5, before taking on Fresno State at Presley Askew Field May 10-12. The Bulldogs are the defending WAC Champions.
The 2012 regular season finishes with a week on the road for the Aggies. After playing the Lobos in Albuquerque, NM State plays future WAC affiliate Cal State-Bakersfield, May 16. The Aggies finish the regular season at San Jose State, May 18-20 and will look to head to Mesa, Ariz., May 23-27 for the 2012 WAC Tournament.