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NMSU Aggies treating coaching change like a new season

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- NM State Baseball ended last season with a cinderella run few saw coming - they won the WAC and got the automatic bid to the tournament and the hope was that this season they'd pick up right where they left off.

Instead through ten games in the season the Aggies are winless. After seven straight losses NMSU made a change at the top. They fired head coach Mike Kirby and named pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Keith Zuniga as the interim head coach.

"We've just been working hard every single day and trying to get the boys to feel right again and treating this almost like a new season," Zuniga said.

While it may not be the ideal situation for Zuniga's first time at the helm of a D1 program, the relationships he already has with the players, the belief he instills in his team and the passion and culture he brings to the program could all be keys to turning a page.

"I would kind of describe it as a breath of fresh air," sophomore infielder Romeo Ballesteros said. "Guys get a little more freedom now, the coaches trust us and they've made that very apparent to us."

Ballesteros is in his first season with the Aggies, after Zuniga recruited him from Pima Community College - the same place he started his playing career back in 2014, before transferring to Bethune-Cookman.

"Him being a young guy, actually a lot of our coaches being younger makes it really easy for them to connect with us and I think that makes it a lot better when it comes to the tough situations we're in especially like right now," Ballesteros said. "Having them by our side every step of the way is huge for us." 

"When you get into a high pressure situation and you look into the dug out and he pumps his chest you know he has your back and then you complete the job and you come in and he's fired up, it's just a really good feeling to know he's right there with you," right handed pitcher Hayden Johns said. "I'm definitely all on board for coach Keith Zuniga." 

Right now being on board under Zuniga is all about the basics.

"Just holding these guys accountable and getting back to doing the little things the right way so that when it is time to go and take it in between the white lines you know things will go as planned," Zuniga said. "We know we have that caliber ball team."

NMSU will look to get their first win of the season and their first with coach Zuniga at the helm on Friday when they begin WAC play with a three-game road stretch at Grand Canyon University. First pitch Friday is at 6 p.m. MT and you can watch the game on ESPN+.

Article Topic Follows: NMSU

Rachel Phillips

Rachel Phillips is the weekend sports anchor and reporter


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