Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
The UTEP softball team (9-21, 3-5 Conference USA) walked off the Golden Eagles, 7-6 , with a home run by senior Cortney Smith in game two. Earlier in the day, the Miners fell to Southern Miss (16-14, 3-5 C-USA) 11-3 at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
Smith had a monster day with two home runs and two RBIs, making her the Conference USA leader in dingers. Kasey Flores posted three RBIs on the day, and Pate Cathey added two of her own, including the first triple of her career.
Julia Wright threw all eight innings to defeat Southern Miss and claim the sixth victory of her season.
“Great fight in that last game. We went ahead, they (Southern Miss) came close, we went ahead, and they tied it up. They had runners on scoring position that could have been the winning run. We just kind of buckled down, and Julia (Wright) did a great job of just fighting through,” Coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “I don’t necessarily think she had her best stuff today, but she did enough to make it work. Our hitters just kept battling and doing what they needed to, and of course Cortney Smith in that last walk-off. Its awesome to win a game in a walk off. Hats off to our team because it wasn’t our best day, and we weren’t all feeling great about ourselves, but they just kept fighting and that’s all you can ask.”
The Miners started out on fire with four doubles (Ariana Valles, Duffield, Flores and Pate Cathey) in the first inning to score three runs to go up 3-0.
The Golden Eagles cut into the UTEP lead in the top of the fourth with a run of their own, but the Orange and Blue would respond with a run from Flores to regain the three run advantage, 4-1.
Southern Miss posted a fifth inning rally with two runs, cutting into the Miner lead, 4-3.
UTEP began the bottom of the fifth frame with the first triple of Cathey’s career. Ilena Santos stepped into the batter’s box and promptly smacked a single through the right side to score Cathey and give the Miners a 5-3 lead.
The Golden Eagles would throw another punch, tying the game at 5-5 after two runs in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom half of the inning Smith hit a sac-fly, scoring Valles to reclaim the lead, 6-5.
With the game on the line down by one run, Southern Miss came alive. It scored a run with two runners on base and no outs to tie the contest, 6-6. The Miner defense stepped up big time, converting on a huge double play and then Julia Wright struck out the final batter of the inning swinging.
Lindsey Sokoloski recorded a one-out single, representing the game-winning run for the Miners. She was advanced to second base on a fielder’s choice, but that would be as far as she got. The Miners and Golden Eagles were now forced into extra innings to decide the game.
A clutch double play, the third of the game for the Miners, by Smith to Duffield ended the eighth frame for Southern Miss, as it had the go-ahead run on first base.
The Orange and Blue was down to its final out of the eighth inning when Smith came to the plate. Smith hit the ball down the left field line, and with the will of the home-field crowd and the Miners the ball stayed fair. The home run capped off the win for UTEP and gave Smith sole possession of the home run lead in the conference (nine).
In game one, the Miners fell to the Golden Eagles, 11-3.
Cortney Smith knocked her league high-tying eighth home run in the sixth inning. Kasey Flores posted the 24th RBI in her chase for the league lead in RBIs. Pamala Baber also registered an RBI single in a pinch hit at-bat.
UTEP posted nine hits in the effort, and added more separation in its Conference USA home run lead with 33. The next closest team has 28. The Miners also turned their league-leading 17th double play of the season.
The Golden Eagles utilized a four-run fourth inning to seize control of the game. Southern Miss recorded 10 hits in the win, and the Miners left nine runners on base, including an empty fifth inning where the bases were loaded for UTEP.
>> Smith now leads Conference USA with nine home runs
>> Cathey recorded the first triple of her career
>> Flores has 26 RBIs on the year
On deck, UTEP will battle Southern Miss in the series finale tomorrow at 12 p.m. to see who will win the conference series.