New Mexico State Athletics – Gonzales, Hart Claim WAC’s Joe Kearney Awards

Complete WAC Release

DENVER – For the second time in the last three seasons, NM State generated a clean sweep of the Western Athletic Conference’s (WAC) Joe Kearney Awards as baseball junior Nick Gonzales and volleyball senior Megan Hart were named the men’s and women’s winners respectively today in a release issued by the league. 

The Joe Kearney Award was instituted in 1992 and honors the top male and female student-athletes in the WAC on an annual basis. Kearney himself was a former commissioner of the league. 

With Hart’s win on the women’s side, NM State has boasted the WAC’s best female student-athlete for the past three seasons and for four of the last five seasons. Previous Aggie female student-athletes who won the Joe Kearney Award include Brooke Salas (2019), Kelsey Horton (2018) and Gwen Murphy (2016). 

Gonzales is the second NM State male student-athlete to capture the Joe Kearney Award, joining Jemerrio Jones who took home the honor in 2018.

Nick Gonzales | Jr. | INF | Vail, Ariz./Cienega HS
The Joe Kearney Award is the latest entry on a lengthy list of individual honors for Gonzales, who was selected seventh overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, June 10, in the 2020 MLB Draft.

A walk-on when he first arrived on campus, Gonzales became a household name during his junior season at NM State. The 2020 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Year was on pace for one of the best offensive seasons in collegiate baseball history before the campaign was suspended due to coronavirus.

A unanimous Preseason All-American entering the season, the Western Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year hit .448 through 16 games, ranking first nationally in home runs (12), runs (28), runs batted in (36) and total bases (67). He was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Player of the Month for February.

Gonzales, who owned a nation-best on-base streak of 82 consecutive games when the season was suspended, put up eye-popping numbers during the abbreviated campaign. He hit for the cycle, including two home runs, against Iona on Feb. 23 before smashing five home runs in a single day against Purdue Fort Wayne on Feb. 29, knocking out two dingers in game one of the doubleheader before swatting three more, including an inside-the-park grand slam, in the nightcap. 

In addition to becoming the first student-athlete in program history to earn National Player of the Year accolades from CB Newspaper, Gonzales also scooped up First Team All-America recognition, landing on the 17-man squad. It was the third straight year he received praise from the publication, which also named him a 2019 First Team All-American after crowning him as a Freshman All-American in 2018. Additionally, Gonzales earned CoSIDA Academic All-America recognition for his efforts in the classroom. 

Megan Hart | R-Sr. | MB | Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada/Immaculata Regional HS
After putting the finishing touches on a spectacular career in which she helped the Aggies claim two WAC regular season titles, a pair of WAC Tournament crowns and two NCAA Tournament appearances, Hart’s latest individual honor is the Joe Kearney Award.

The redshirt senior had a stellar senior season in which her .382 hitting percentage on 589 swings led the squad. She ranked second in the WAC for hitting percentage, 5th in blocks per set (1.03) and eighth in points per set (3.40).

Hart hit over .350 21 times in 2019 and over .400 16 times. She smashed 10 or more kills 16 times including a career-high 19 in a sweep over Grand Canyon on Oct. 12. The Kelowna, B.C., Canada, native finished second on the squad in kills (300) and kills per set (2.80) as a middle blocker.

For her career, Hart ranks sixth in program history for career blocks (395), sixth in block assists (345) and wrapped up her time in the Crimson and White as the program’s all-time leader in hitting percentage (.359).

In 2019 alone, Hart was named the WAC Player of the Year, WAC Tournament MVP, an AVCA All-Region honoree and an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American. All told, Hart piled up a pair of All-WAC First Team honors and two WAC Tournament MVP honors through her days in an Aggie uniform. She will continue to serve in a leadership role for the team as a graduate assistant coach while completing her master’s degree in family & consumer sciences. 

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