The Western Athletic Conference announced its 2019 preseason honors, as voted on by the league’s 10 head coaches. New Mexico State led all conference opponents in Preseason All-WAC Team selections with six and Brock Whittlesey was projected as the WAC Pitcher of the Year.
On the preseason coaches’ poll, NM State was picked to finish in second, receiving three first-place votes. Grand Canyon was selected as the preseason champion garnering five first-place votes and Sacramento State was right behind the Aggies picked third and received the remaining two first-place votes. The remainder of the poll featured Seattle U picked to finish fourth, Cal Baptist and UT Rio Grande Valley tied for fifth, CSU Bakersfield selected for seventh, Northern Colorado took eighth, followed by Utah Valley and Chicago State in ninth and tenth, respectively.
A strong contingent of Aggies on the All-WAC team featured Braden Williams earning the nod at catcher for his senior season. The Irving, Texas native had a strong first season behind the plate with the Crimson & White with a 1.000 fielding percentage and was a perfect 9-for-9 on catching runners stealing.
Next up on the all-conference team was first baseman Caleb Henderson. Henderson is coming off an impressive junior campaign that saw the slugger set a program record with 62 games played. The first baseman bat .341 with a team-high 10 home runs and ranked 25th in the nation with 65 runs batted in. The impressive numbers also saw Henderson earn an All-WAC First-Team honor at the end of the 2018 season.
Remaining in the infield, Aggie second baseman Nick Gonzales earned the All-WAC team nod after a stellar freshman campaign. Gonzales led the Aggies with a .347 batting average with 28 extra-base hits and 36 RBI. The Vail, Ariz. native was named to the All-WAC First-Team and was NM State’s first ever WAC Freshman of the Year. The accolades did not stop there at season’s end, however, as the second baseman was also named to five freshman All-American teams.
Joey Ortiz anchors the Aggies strong middle infield and was honored as the All-WAC team shortstop heading into 2019. Last season, Ortiz was named to the All-WAC First-Team to conclude the regular season after posting a .289 batting average with 54 RBI. Ortiz’ strong play is also highlighted by his fielding and last season the shortstop posted a .970 fielding percentage with 175 assists, 87 putouts and 29 double plays turned.
Moving to the outfield, last year’s WAC Tournament MVP, Tristen Carranza, earned a preseason honor to open up his senior season. In 2018, Carranza posted a .325 batting average with nine homers and 53 RBI. Disciplined at the plate, he also ranked ninth in the country in hit by pitch with a total of 21 that also set a new NM State program record in a single season.
Brock Whittlesey earned the nod from the Aggies pitching staff and was also voted the WAC Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Whittlesey is moving to a starting role after a phenomenal 2018 season as the Aggies closer. Last year, the right-hander set a new program record with 12 saves that ranked 24th in the NCAA. A stellar set of outings in the postseason also earned Whittlesey a spot on the All-WAC Tournament team.
New Mexico State baseball now gets set for its 2019 season opener welcoming Texas Southern to Presley Askew Field for a four-game weekend series, Feb. 15-17.
New Mexico State baseball season tickets are available for just $75 general admission and $100 for reserved seats. Fans looking to purchase can visit Ticketmaster or call the Pan Am ticket office at (575) 646-1420.
2019 Preseason Baseball Coaches Poll
Rank Team (1st Place Votes) Points
1. Grand Canyon (5) 75
2. NM State (3) 74
3. Sacramento State (2) 69
4. Seattle U 54
T5. California Baptist 37
T5. UT Rio Grande Valley 37
7. CSU Bakersfield 35
8. Northern Colorado 27
9. Utah Valley 26
10. Chicago State 12
2019 Preseason All-WAC Team
Catcher: Braden Williams, Sr., NM State
First Base: Caleb Henderson, Sr., NM State
Second Base: Nick Gonzales, So., NM State
Third Base: Austin Lively, Jr., Seattle U
Third Base: Pikai Winchester, Sr., Grand Canyon
Shortstop: Joey Ortiz, Jr., NM State
Outfield: Tristen Carranza, Sr., NM State
Outfield: Quin Cotton, Jr., Grand Canyon
Outfield: Jack Pauley, Sr., Northern Colorado
Utility/DH: Justin Mazzone, So., Seattle U
Starting Pitcher: Jake Prizina, Sr., Seattle U
Starting Pitcher: Scott Randall, So., Sacramento State
Starting Pitcher:Brock Whittlesey, Sr., NM State
Relief Pitcher: Tanner Dalton, Sr., Sacramento State
Player of the Year:Quin Cotton, Jr., OF, Grand Canyon
Pitcher of the Year:Brock Whittlesey, Sr., RHP, NM State