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Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 9:53pm
The New Mexico State softball hosts a battle of conference unbeatens when No. 23 Fresno State comes to town this weekend to battle for the conference lead in a three-game series beginning with a single game Friday at 5 p.m. MT on the field of the NM State Softball Complex.
Both teams are undefeated at 6-0 in the WAC but enter the pivotal weekend series after disappointing non-conference losses earlier this week. The Aggies dropped a tight 3-2 contest to rival New Mexico on Monday night in Las Cruces. A day later the newly-ranked Bulldogs fell 5-4 in 11 innings at Pacific.
NM State (27-11, 6-0 WAC) swept five games last week in Utah at Weber State and at Utah State prior to Monday's setback. The loss to the Lobos snapped a program-record eight-game winning streak that tied a similar run back in April 2009. The Aggies' 6-0 conference mark is its best beginning to a WAC season since joining in 2005.
Fresno State (22-9, 6-0 WAC) entered the national rankings after a three-game sweep of then-No. 20 Hawai'i last weekend in Fresno. The Bulldogs' loss to the Tigers on Tuesday snapped a seven-game win streak that included the sweep of the Rainbow Wahine a road sweep at Louisiana Tech and began with a 3-1 win over then-No. 5 Michigan at the Judi Garman Classic on March 19.
The Aggies fought the Bulldogs tough last season in Fresno, dropping each of the three games by two runs or less. NM State lost 4-3 in extra innings in the first contest on Friday after departed senior Angie Ortega cranked a home run to tie the game in the top of the seventh. The Aggies then stumbled 7-6 in game one of a Saturday doubleheader despite two Hoku Nohara home runs and lost 3-1 in the nightcap.
Fresno State leads the all-time series 28-2 and has won five straight against the Aggies. The last Aggie win in the series was a 3-0 shutout on March 27, 2009 in Las Cruces. The other NM State victory was a 5-4 win on March 9, 2001 in Fresno.
The foes only have one common opponent this season. NM State defeated Bradley 12-10 in eight innings at the UTEP Invitational on Feb. 25. Fresno State defeated the Braves 2-0 and 3-2 in mid-March at the Bulldogs' Bayer CropScience Classic.
Fresno State is led on offense by Haley Gilleland with a .320 batting average and 33 base hits. Gilleland holds the FS career record for stolen bases and is 17-of-19 this year. Michelle Moses leads the Bulldogs with eight home runs, 22 RBI, 18 runs scored and a .583 slugging percentage. Andrea Ortega is second on the team with a .288 average at the plate and a slugging percentage of .463.
In the circle for the Bulldogs, Mackenzie Oakes stands 13-2 this season with a 1.70 ERA and 52 strikeouts. Moses is 8-7 on the year with a 2.34 ERA and 122 strikeouts.
Aggie senior Hoku Nohara leads the nation in home runs (19), walks per game (1.22) and slugging percentage (1.191) as of the last NCAA stat release April 3. Just as impressive, Nohara is second in the country in home runs per game (0.51), and on-base percentage (.647).
Senior Kandis Jones leads the WAC with 54 hits and 124 at-bats. She ranks second in the league with 38 runs scored and ranks third with a .422 clip at the plate in the conference.
Junior Tiare Jennings is second on the team with a .493 on-base percentage that ranks third in the WAC. She ranks second in the WAC behind Nohara with 32 walks and is third in the league with 32 runs scored.
Senior Kylie Randall leads the league with 39 runs scored and 25 stolen bases this season to rank No. 17 nationally. The Aggies' all-time bag robber is 25-of-26 on the season.
Sophomore Teresa Conrad is second on the team and sixth in the WAC with seven home runs in 2010. She ranks third in the conference with 31 RBI and is third on the team with a .608 slugging percentage that is seventh in the WAC.
Freshman Valerie Swedberg leads the WAC with two triples and touts the second-best slugging percentage on the team at .633 to rank fifth in the league. She is also tied for second in doubles for NM State this season with nine.
Sophomore Alex Newman leads the Aggies in the circle with a 17-3 record in 29 appearances and a 3.38 ERA. Newman is among the top 12 nationally with 17 wins.
As a team, NM State ranks among the top 18 in five key offensive categories in the latest NCAA stats. The Aggies boast a .336 batting average at the plate to rank No. 15 nationally. The Aggies are No. 10 in the country for scoring 7.05 runs per game this year. NM State ranks No. 13 nationally in slugging percentage (.543), No. 14 in doubles per game (1.65) and No. 18 in home runs per game (1.24).
The teams conclude the series Saturday with a doubleheader slated to begin at 2 p.m. MT at the Complex. Both games Saturday can be seen on AggieVision across the state on Comcast affiliates.
For all of the latest NM State softball news, click NMStateSports.com.