MESA, Arizona (KTSM) – New Mexico State Baseball got the job done when it matters the most. The Aggies beat fellow tournament four-seed Abilene Christian 7-1 and won the WAC Baseball Tournament Championship.
With that comes the WAC’s automatic bid to the 2022 NCAA college baseball championship tournament. This is the second time in the last five years that the Aggies will be playing on the big stage.
“I am just so excited for them, for the boys, for the city of Las Cruces, it has been a big grind,” said New Mexico State Baseball head coach Mike Kirby. “I am really fired up for these guys.”
The Aggies’ bats were on fire as the team combined for 13 hits, 7 RBI, 2 doubles, and one homerun. Cal Villareal was an Aggie that couldn’t be stopped as he had four hits in five at-bats, recorded a double as well as an RBI. Villareal was named the WAC Baseball Tournament MVP. Villareal collected 11 hits throughout the tournament for the Aggies who went 4-0 beating Sam Houston, UT Rio Grande Valley, Sacramento State, and finally Abilene Christian.
NM State got off to a great start when Nolan Funke sent a solo shot to right field to put the Aggies up 1-0 in the bottom of the second. Later on in the inning, Cal Kilgore singled up the middle to bring in another run for the Aggies.
In the bottom of the fourth, Funke came in clutch again, sending a line drive to left center bringing in Tommy Tabak to pad the Aggies lead out to 3-0. Funke found himself at second base for the RBI-double.
Later in the fourth inning, Preston Godfrey singled through the left side of the field to bring in Funke for another run. After a Cal Kilgore groundout that advances Godfrey to second base, Villareal singled to left center to bring in Godfrey to extend the Aggies lead to 4-0. When the fourth inning ended, the Aggies scored three runs on four hits and left one runner on base.
Abilene Christian got a run back in the top of the fifth with a Hunter Gieser solo homerun but the Aggies would come back with more of their own offense.
In the bottom of the sixth, with two runners in scoring position, Gunner Antillion sent a ball back to where it came from and into center field to bring in both Villareal and Godfrey to make the score 7-1.
From that point on the Aggies began counting down the outs. Aggies’ closer Alex Bustamonte came into the game in the seventh inning to finish the job. ACU’s Colton Eager was the final batter of the game and Bustamonte got him to fly out to centerfield to close out the game. Bustamonte threw three innings, allowed two hits, three walks and struck out four on the day.
The Aggies used four pitchers in the final game of the tournament. Pablo Cortes started and threw an excellent two innings. He collected four strikeouts and only allowed one hit. Ian Mejia came in after Cortes. Mejia was given the decision for the win after he threw 3.0 innings, recorded three strikeouts, allowed onme earned run and gave up three hits. Brandon Rodriguez was the last pitcher the Aggies used before Bustamonte came into the game to finish it off.
“They showed a lot of guts today, they are working on short days rest and came out and pounded the zone,” said New Mexico State Baseball head coach Mike Kirby. “I told them they are going to have to do something they normally don’t do. For example, Bustamonte coming in and extending him a little bit and yeah it all seemed to work out pretty well.”
The Aggies last WAC Tournament Championship came in 2018. The Aggies have earned another trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies will find out what is next for them soon as the field of 64 teams that will compete for the 2022 NCAA college baseball championship will be announced on ESPN2 at 10:00 A.M. MT on Monday, May 30.