RIVERSIDE, Ca. – UTEP (2-8) dropped its final two games to Santa Clara, 7-4, and UC Riverside, 11-1, on the last day of the Highlander Classic in Riverside, California.
The Miners fought back from a 2-0 deficit in the first game of the day, but Santa Clara (5-4) plated five runs late in the game to prevail. In the final game of the weekend, UC Riverside (6-3) combined to score 11 runs in the third and fourth innings to defeat the Miners.
Over the course of the weekend, UTEP was led by junior Ilena Santos, who was 5-for-14 (.357) for the tournament with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs.
Sophomore third baseman Kasey Flores also paced the UTEP offense with a .353 clip with six hits, including a home run, and two RBIs in five games. Additionally, senior Pamala Baber saw her first action of the 2020 season this weekend by starting all five games and hitting two home runs in the tournament.
The Miners return to El Paso to open the home slate next weekend by hosting the UTEP Invitational (Feb. 21-23) at Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
UTEP will open the tournament versus IUPUI at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21 before taking on Omaha at 6 p.m. later that night. On Saturday, Feb. 22, the Miners will face off against IUPUI for a second time at 4:30 p.m. MT.
The tournament will wrap up on Sunday, February 23, with UTEP hosting Omaha at 12:30 p.m. MT in El Paso.
GAME 1: SANTA CLARA 7, UTEP 4
With UTEP and Santa Clara knotted in a 2-2 game after four innings, a handful of defensive miscues doomed the Miners, who allowed two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth to eventually fall, 7-4, to the Broncos in the first game on Sunday.
It was a scoreless ball game between the Miners and Broncos up until the fourth inning when Santa Clara plated two runs on a pair of base hits to take a 2-0 lead. UTEP wasted no time answering back in the bottom half of the frame. Flores and Idalis Mendez reached base on a single and a walk, eventually coming around to score on a sacrifice fly by Pate Cathey and an infield single by freshman Isabella Hanson to tie the game at 2-2.
The fifth inning spelled trouble for the Miners, who allowed Santa Clara to take a 4-2 lead with two unearned runs scored on a pair of UTEP fielding errors. UTEP got one run back in the bottom of the fifth by plating an unearned run of its own after Mendez reached on an error and later scored on an RBI double by Ariana Valles to make it a one-run game.
In the sixth, Santa Clara extended its lead to 7-3 by plating three more runs on four hits, all of which came with two outs in the inning.
The Miners were retired quietly in the bottom half of the sixth, but did score one more in the seventh to make it 7-4 thanks to singles by Zaylie Calderon, Flores and Mendez, who drove in the final run of the game on a base hit to left-center.
Calderon (1-1) made her third start in the circle for the Miners and finished with a no decision after pitching 4.1 innings, while allowing two runs – both earned – on five hits with four walks and a strikeout. Isabella Kelly (1-4) came on in relief in the fourth and was charged with the loss after allowing five runs – three earned – on five hits, while walking two and striking out a pair of batters.
Santa Clara starter Hannah Edwards (2-2) went the distance and picked up the win for the Broncos after allowing four runs – three earned – on eight hits with two walks and four punchouts.
Hanson led the way for the Miners in the opening game with a 2-for-3 effort at the plate, including driving in a run. Flores also tallied two hits in four at bats, while also scoring a run in the contest. Mendez, Valles and Cathey also tallied an RBI each in the loss.
GAME 2: UC RIVERSIDE 11, UTEP 1 (5 INN.)
UC Riverside scored six runs in the third and followed that up with five more in the fourth to eventually down UTEP, 11-1, in five innings to wrap up the Highlander Classic on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams were locked in a scoreless tie through the first two innings, but UC Riverside broke it open in the third frame, with the Highlanders exploding for six runs on seven hits to put the host team up 6-0.
In the fourth, the Highlander bats picked back up where they left off, scoring five runs on five more hits to make it an 11-0 lead over the Miners.
UTEP’s lone run of the game came in the fifth when senior Bryanna Molina led off the inning with a double in the left-center gap. Calderon followed that up with an infield single that forced an error on the UC Riverside second baseman, which allowed Molina to cross home plate.
Freshman Isabella Kelly (1-5) started in the circle for the Miners and was issued the loss after allowing 10 runs – all earned – on 11 hits in 3.1 innings of work. Ilena Santos came on in relief with one out in the fourth and gave up a run on one hit before getting the final two outs to end the inning. Briza Blanco (3-0) picked up the win for UC Riverside after allowing just one unearned run on five hits and striking out five in five complete innings.
Calderon led the Miners offensively after reaching base safely in each plate appearance with a 2-for-2 effort, while she also reached on a hit by pitch in the contest. Molina and Santos each tallied a double on the day, while Valles was also 1-for-2 at the plate for UTEP.
For complete coverage of UTEP Softball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @utepsoftball (Instagram) and @UTEPSoftball (Twitter) or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.