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‘Stars align’ as Aggies win conference tourney, advance to NCAAs

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After an up-and-down regular season that saw them have to win their last series to even qualify for their conference tournament, the New Mexico State University baseball team can now call themselves champions.

The Aggies went 4-0 in the Western Athletic Conference tournament May 25-28 to win the tournament championship in Mesa, Arizona, and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“The stars kind of aligned for us,” NM State coach Mike Kirby said. “We felt fortunate to be in the tournament and took full advantage of it, had some fun and played some really, really good baseball.”

The Aggies, 24-32 overall, beat Sam Houston 3-1, UT Rio Grande Valley 10-0, Sacramento State 7-3 and then Abilene Christian 7-1 in the winner-take-all title game.

Kirby said the team was “playing with house money” after sneaking into the tournament after taking two out of three games from Utah Valley in their final regular-season series of the year.

“I told you before we had a really good team; we were just banged up,” Kirby said.

Outfielder Cal Villareal was named the tournament MVP after a monster week that included a pair of four-hit games. Teammates Tommy Tabak, Nolan Funke, Ian Mejia and Pablo Cortes were also named to the all-tournament team.

The Aggies will now play No. 3 national seed Oregon State in the Corvallis regional Friday, June 3. NM State's opening game will be shown on ESPNU. All their games will be broadcast on 99.5 Zia Country with Adam Young on the call.