New Mexico State and UTEP softball teams opens the 2014 season by hosting the Hotel Encanto Invitational for the eighth straight season. The Aggies welcome two top 15 teams along with Saint Mary’s College and cross-border rival UTEP.
The Aggies open the 2014 season on Friday, Feb. 7 by hosting the Hotel Encanto Invitational. NM State’s home opener is against No. 12 Florida State at 4 p.m. The team also welcomes Saint Mary’s at 6 p.m. on Friday, No. 9 Nebraska at 4 p.m. on Saturday and closes out the weekend with against Saint Mary’s at 11 a.m. and UTEP at 1:30 p.m.
Feb. 7 NM State vs. Florida State 4 p.m.
Feb. 7 NM State vs. Saint Mary’s 6 p.m.
Feb. 8 NM State vs. Nebraska 4 p.m.
Feb. 9 NM State vs. Saint Mary’s 11 a.m.
Feb. 9 NM State vs. UTEP 1:30 p.m.
The Aggies continue at the NM State Softball Complex by hosting the Troy Cox Classic Feb. 14-16 for the 24th straight season. Making their way to Las Cruces for the tournament is Northern Colorado, Texas Tech, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Iowa State and Weber State.
Feb. 14 NM State vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 4 p.m.
Feb. 14 NM State vs. Iowa State 6 p.m.
Feb. 15 NM State vs. Northern Colorado 4 p.m.
Feb. 15 NM State vs. Iowa State 6 p.m.
Feb. 16 NM State vs. Texas Tech 1:30 p.m.
Radio: KSNM AM570 (play-by-play: Jay Sanderson/Jeff Matthews)
Feb. 7 vs. Saint Mary’s (pregame at 5:45 p.m.)
Feb. 8 vs. Nebraska (pregame at 3:45 p.m.)
Feb. 9 vs. Saint Mary’s AND UTEP (pregame at 1:15 p.m.)
Live Stats: www.NMStateSports.com  (click on live events link)
About the Aggies
The Aggies open the 2014 season returning 15 from last season’s squad and welcome eight new players. Among the returns is junior Staci Rodriguez who was named Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year after outstanding season that was highlighted by leading the conference with 20 home runs and 69 RBI. The center fielder started in every single game for the Aggies in 2013 and led the team with a slugging percentage of .780. She also earned NFCA All-Pacific Region honors.
Among the eight newcomers to the team are New Mexico natives Susie Chandler (Farmington, N.M.) and Nikki Diaz (Las Cruces, N.M.). Haley Nakamura, younger sister to sophomore Brennalyn Nakamura, also joins the middle infield as a freshman for the Aggies.
Scouting No. 12 Florida State
Florida State coming into the season-opening weekend ranked No.12 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and No. 15 in the NFCA/USA Today poll. A favorite to win the ACC, finished the 2013 season 44-19 after making an appearance in the NCAA Super Regionals. The Seminoles defeated Mississippi State and South Alabama to advance to Super Regionals where the team fell to Texas.
The Seminoles and the Aggies have met just four times in program history with FSU claiming all four wins. The last time the teams met was In 2002 when the teams met twice during the Troy Cox Classic.
Scouting No. 9 Nebraska
Nebraska finished 2013 with a 45-16 record and a trip to the Women’s College World Series. The Huskers go into the Hotel Encanto Invite with a preseason ranking of No. 9 in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball and the NFCA/USA Today polls.
Last season, the Huskers started the season at the HEI with a 5-0 record, including a season-opening win over the Aggies.
Last season, Nebraska and the Aggies met on two separate occasions. First at the Hotel Encanto Invite, the Huskers took a 5-1 win over the Aggies. Then, in early March, the Aggies made the trip to Lincoln, Neb., falling in two games. All time, Nebraska leads the series 13-5.
Scouting Saint Mary’s
The Gaels were 21-30 last season and 11-13 in the PCSC. In the circle, the Gaels are led by sophomore Lujane Mussadi. As a freshman, she went 13-13 with a 2.24 ERA, 20 complete games, 190.2 innings pitched, 63 strikeouts, 35 walks and three shutouts.
Senior Brittany Sabatini leads offensively with a career average of .289 with 123 hits, 21 doubles and 15 home runs.
NM State holds a 5-2 record over Saint Mary’s with the last meeting coming in 2012. The Aggies picked up a 13-12 win over the Gaels at the Hotel Encanto Tournament.
UTEP won just 13 games last season, including two C-USA games. The 2103 season was the third that UTEP had not made the conference tournament. The team went on an 18-game losing streak in the middle of the season, but going into 2014 with first-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk. Alanna Leasau returns her team-leading eight homeruns and 40 RBI. The 2013 Conference USA Newcomer of the Year Erika Arcuri led the Orange and Blue with a .347 batting average and 26 runs scored, while striking out 11 times in 144 at bats.
The cross-border rivals go into the weekend after meeting 29 times in program history. NM State has won 20 of those meetings with UTEP taking just nine. The 30th meeting comes on Sunday after NM State went 2-0 last season against the Miners.