It doesn’t matter that New Mexico State finished with a losing record. Or, to bring it home, that the Aggies were 0-4 against a rebuilding (and 21-33 in 2022) University of New Mexico team.
The 24-32 Aggies are in the national championship baseball hunt.
You’ve got to be in it to win it, after all, and New Mexico State earned its automatic NCAA bid over the weekend with a stunning run to the Western Athletic Conference tournament title. On Monday, coach Mike Kirby’s Aggies drew their regional assignment – Corvallis, Oregon, with the first game against No. 3 overall seed Oregon State (44-15) at 8 p.m. Friday.
The Beavers lead the all-time series, 7-2, last winning 7-0 in 2011.
Vanderbilt and San Diego also square off Friday as the other two in the four-team, double-elimination bracket. Winners of all 16 such brackets nationwide advance to eight best-of-three super regionals. Those winners move on to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
New Mexico State directs fans interested in purchasing tickets to the Corvallis Regional to the Oregon State athletics website (osubeavers.com). All-session tickets will go on sale at 3 p.m. Thursday.
The Aggies are one of only three teams in the 64-team field who finished under. 500, joining Coppin State (24-28) and Binghamton (22-28).
Oregon State is coming off a 9-5 loss in the Pac-12 championship game to Stanford. But the Beavers got attention for their part one day earlier in an epic 25-22 loss to UCLA, in which the Bruins tied it with nine runs in the bottom of the ninth and won it in the 10th on a three-run walkoff homer.
That forced a rematch won by Oregon State 8-7. Sandia High alumnus Jacob Kmatz started that game for the Beavers and allowed three runs over 5.2 innings.
A 6-foot-3 freshman right-hander, Kmatz didn’t get the decision, but he’s 8-1 with a 3.89 earned-run average and has 14 starts, second most on the team. Pitching matchups had not been announced by Monday afternoon.
The Aggies reached this point only after becoming the last team to get into the WAC tournament – and then steamrolling the field. Goddard alumnus and junior outfielder Cal Villareal had two four-hit games and was named tournament MVP.
NMSU’s road to the title was graded without having a major obstacle in Grand Canyon, which fell twice to Abilene Christian – like the Aggies a No. 4 WAC seed. GCU still got an at-large berth and goes to the Stillwater (Oklahoma State) regional and faces Arkansas. It’s the first time the WAC has two teams in field since 2012.
Representing the Mountain West is Air Force (30-27), the league’s tournament winner and in the NCAAs for the first time since 1969.
Tennessee is the No. 1 overall seed after one of the most dominant seasons in history. The Volunteers (53-7) swept the SEC regular-season and tournament titles and have the best pitching and batting statistics in the nation.
The last four teams picked for regionals were Florida State, Grand Canyon, Liberty and Mississippi. The first four out were North Carolina State, Old Dominion, Rutgers and Wofford.