FROM CBB NEWS SOURCES
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – New Mexico State baseball head coach Rocky Ward announced, Monday, July 28 that he has signed three players from around the state that have the opportunity to make an immediate impact on the team.
Tomas Gutierrez joins the Aggies next season and is from Albuquerque, while Justin Cooper heads to Las Cruces from Roswell, N.M. where he played for Goddard High School and Jonathan Rodriguez, who hails from Carlsbad, N.M. joins both Gutierrez and Cooper in 2009.
“We have worked hard past two or three years to look for best talent New Mexico has to offer, and last year that showed with the signing of Scott Kauffman and James Lilly, although both sustained an injury,” Ward said. “These three student-athletes all have the opportunity to make an immediate impact on the team.”
Gutierrez played third base and catcher for La Cueva High School and helped the Bears to a city, district and state championship in 2006, while he was named all-metro designated hitter in 2007. Heading into his senior year, Gutierrez had nine home runs, 56 RBI and 20 doubles to go along with 10 stolen bases and a .405 batting average.
“He (Gutierrez) is one of the best hitters in the state and will fit right in with our style of play,” Ward said.
Justin Cooper, a six foot right-hander, signed with NMSU on the very first day of the early signing period in November and will come to New Mexico State from Roswell, N.M., where he was a four-year letter winner in baseball and a three-year letter winner in basketball. As a junior he was named first-team all-district in both baseball and basketball.
“Cooper threw 86-87 mph in high school but in the summer league he has been playing in, he has reached the low 90’s consistently,” Ward said. “He was selected ‘best pitcher’ in that league, which is really good considering he has gone up against plenty of collegiate veterans. He just keeps getting better and better.”
Jonathan Rodriguez played for Carlsbad High School, where he led the team to state semi-final appearances in 2005 and 2006 and state quarterfinal appearances in 2008. The Cavemen went 21-8 in 2008, while Rodriguez was named to the South All-Star Team. He hit .455 over his career at CHS, while hitting 13 career triples, 31 doubles and 60 stolen bases.
“Rodriguez is a switch hitter who has made lots positive improvement,” Ward said. “We are looking forward to having him here as he provides legitimate speed and has the potential to become a quality centerfielder.”
The three student-athletes will be competing for a spot on the team as the NCAA has limited rosters to 35 players. The Aggies made it to their first ever Western Athletic Conference Tournament in 2008 and hit 100 home runs on the season. They will look to improve even more in 2009 as they will have to face the 2008 National Champions, Fresno State at least four times.