NM State tabbed as WAC favorites in preseason poll

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In a poll voted on by the Western Athletic Conference head coaches, New Mexico State softball was picked as the favorites to finish first in the league, the conference announced on Wednesday. Kelsey Horton was selected as the WAC Preseason Player of the Year while Kayla Green was named the Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Additionally, teammates Nikki Butler and Victoria Castro were named to the Preseason All-WAC Team.

The Aggies won their fourth-straight WAC regular-season title in 2018 while also taking home the program’s third tournament title in the past four years. The team went 29-24 overall and 11-4 in WAC play during the banner season. Overall, the team came away with four wins against Power-5 opponents including victories against Big 12 foe Texas Tech on the road, eventual Big Ten tournament champion Minnesota, and a pair versus then-ranked No. 17 Kentucky to open the season at  the NM State Softball Complex.

Horton comes into her senior season after setting the NM State program record for home runs (25) and total bases (154) for a single season. Individually, she ranked in the top-25 in several statistical categories for 2018 and even led the country in home runs and home runs per game (0.49) heading into the NCAA tournament. The senior closed out the season second in homers and home runs per game (0.47), third in the NCAA for RBI per game (1.21) and total bases, seventh in slugging percentage (0.911) and 22nd in runs per game (0.98). Horton was also named the WAC Player of the Year for a second-straight season and also took home the conference tournament’s Most Valuable Player accolade during her junior season.

Green enters her senior campaign following a season where she was named First Team All-WAC. The right-handed pitcher posted an impressive season in the circle including a team-best 3.72 overall ERA and 2.42 ERA during league play. The junior recorded 70 strikeouts while appearing in 35 contests in 2018. Against WAC opponents, she went 6-1, threw three combined shutouts, and also came away with one save.

 

Butler was named to the preseason team for a second-straight senior. The junior received her second All-WAC first team accolade following a season where she hit .447 during league play to rank second in the conference while also posting a .766 slugging percentage, which ranked third among WAC players. Overall, the catcher finished second on the squad with a .376 batting average and a .685 slugging percentage. She also set a new program record when she was hit by a pitch 15 times during the year.

 

Three-time all-conference outfielder Castro received preseason recognition for a second season. The junior started every WAC contest for the team in 2018 and hit .348 against league opponents. She closed out WAC play with a .565 slugging percentage and amassed three homers and a double against WAC opponents. Overall, Castro hit .343 with a .590 slugging percentage during her junior season.

 

NM State took the top spot in the preseason poll with 35 points and five first-place votes, while Grand Canyon was just behind with 32 points and the other two first-place votes. Seattle U was selected to finish in third place with 25 points, just ahead of Utah Valley in fourth place with 21 points. California Baptist and Kansas City tied for fifth place with 13 points and CSU Bakersfield (8) rounded out the poll.

The Aggies open their 2019 campaign when the team hosts Creighton, New Mexico and UTEP as a part of the NM State Invitational. New Mexico State opens its tournament run against the Blue Jays with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. MT on February 8.

2019 WAC Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Rank

Teams (1st-Place Votes)

Points

1.

NM State (5)

35

2.

Grand Canyon (2)

32

3.

Seattle U

25

4.

Utah Valley

21

T-5. 

California Baptist

13

T-5. 

Kansas City

13

7.

CSU Bakersfield

8


2019 Softball Preseason All-WAC Team

Player

School

Yr.

Pos.

Brianna Aguilar

Grand Canyon

Jr.

P

Peyton Angulo

Utah Valley

So.

UTL

Nikki Butler

NM State

Jr.

C

Victoria Castro

NM State

Sr.

OF

Madison Cathcart

Seattle U

Jr.

INF

Ally Choate

Seattle U

So.

OF

Kayla Green

NM State

Sr.

P

Kelsey Horton

NM State

Sr.

UTL

Andie Larkins

Seattle U

Sr.

P

Carley Nance

Seattle U

So.

P

Shea Smith

Grand Canyon

Sr.

INF

Sierra Smith

Grand Canyon

Sr.

INF

Lyndsay Steverson

Utah Valley

Jr.

INF


Preseason Player of the Year: Kelsey Horton, NM State
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Kayla Green, NM State

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