Aggies set to defend WAC Tournament title

Sports

For the second time in three years, the New Mexico State baseball team enters this week’s 2019 WAC Tournament in Phoenix, Arizona as the No. 1 seed. The Aggies finished the regular season 37-15 (19-8), earning a share of the WAC regular season championship.

NMSU returns to the tournament as the defending champs, winning it all and advancing to the NCAA Regionals in 2018.

With six teams winning 18 league games or more in 2019, this year’s tournament field appears to be as deep as ever.

“Anybody can win this tournament and that is a legitimate statement that I don’t think you can make a few years ago,” said head coach Brian Green. “It is a very, very strong field. Everyone has a number one, a lot of teams have a number two, there are very competitive offenses, and everyone plays defense.”

Pressure always seems to be a factor when it comes to postseason baseball, but the Aggies experience in the WAC Tournament will allow them to play loose.

“The team that wins in the team that has more fun,” said senior infielder Tristen Carranza. “It’s the team that doesn’t worry about losing and just goes out there and plays the game.”

This mindset has stuck with the Aggies throughout the season and they do not plan to change much.

“We are going to stick to the process and compete,” said junior shortstop Joey Ortiz, who was named WAC Player of the Year on Tuesday by the league. “I feel like that’s the main thing for this team. If we compete, I feel like nobody can beat us.”

Including Ortiz, the Aggies had six First Team All-WAC selections. However, Green feels like some of his bench players will have to step up.

“Something is going to happen where someone on our team who hasn’t done a lot this year, they’re going to have to find themselves in a spot where they have to come through,” said Green. “Someone will have to be a little more extraordinary than they’ve been.”

As it is in any sport, having the No. 1 seed and a first round bye is an excellent start to the tournament, even before the Aggies take the field on Thursday night.

“In terms of us having the bye and have the opportunity to run through that and go 3-0, that’s huge,” said Green. “We like our chances if we can get to Saturday.”

NMSU will open tournament play against Utah Valley on Thursday night. First pitch is at 8 p.m. MDT.

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