Photo by Connor Putman
UTEP and Louisiana Tech traded blows for eight innings on Friday night, but it was the visiting Lady Techsters that took the opening game of the series by a score of 9-8 at Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
UTEP (4-16, 0-1 C-USA) held on to a 3-1 lead over the reigning Conference USA Champions after four innings of play, but LA Tech (7-15, 1-0 C-USA) plated eight runs over the final four frames to eventually clinch the victory in eight innings.
LA Tech tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the fifth, but the Miners responded immediately with a leadoff single by Kasey Flores followed by a trio of RBI base knocks by Ilena Santos, Pamala Baber and Isabella Hanson to put UTEP ahead, 6-3.
In the top of the sixth, the Lady Techsters answered with a big inning of their own by plating five runs on six hits for an 8-6 lead, their first of the game.
With UTEP down to its final three outs, the Miners rallied in the bottom of the seventh. Santos led off the inning with a single to right field, followed by a walk for Baber. Both runners made it into scoring position on a well-executed sacrifice bunt by Macey Brown and eventually came around to score on a groundout and LA Tech error to knot the game at 8-8.
LA Tech once again took the lead in the top of the eighth when Zoe Hicks walked to lead off the inning and later scored on an RBI double by Marilyn Rizzato to give the Techsters a one-run lead.
UTEP would not go away without a fight, however, as the Miners loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth on a fielder’s choice, single and hit by pitch, but LA Tech came through with a strikeout to claim the series-opening win.
Both teams combined for 27 hits in the contest with LA Tech out-hitting the Miners, 15-12, on the night. UTEP stranded 11 baserunners in the game, while the Lady Techsters left eight on base.
The top of LA Tech’s lineup doomed the Miners on Friday with the first four Techsters in the batting order combining to go 8-for-16 with four doubles and seven RBIs.
Baber drove in three runs and scored a pair in a 2-for-3 effort, while Santos was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored in the game. Zaylie Calderon and Flores also collected multi-hit games for the Miners, while Hanson was 1-for-4 with two RBIs. Idalis Mendez and Mallorie Cross also had base knocks for UTEP on Friday.
Freshman Isabella Kelly (3-9) pitched the full eight innings for the Miners and was charged with the loss after allowing nine runs – eight earned – on 15 hits, while walking four and striking out two.
LA Tech’s Audrey Pickett (5-6) picked up the win in the circle after pitching 6.2 innings and allowing six runs – all earned – on 10 hits, while she struck out nine on the night and walking only one. Hannah Koenig came on in relief in the fifth and pitched 1.1 innings, while giving up two runs – one earned – on two hits and walking two before Pickett re-entered in the seventh to close out final two innings.
The series between UTEP and LA Tech continues at 4 p.m. MT on Saturday at Helen of Troy Softball Complex in El Paso.
SATURDAY – Postgame meet-n-greet and autographs with the Miners.
SUNDAY – Free Postgame Youth Clinic for kids 13 and under.
Single-game tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children, and can be purchased at the Helen of Troy ticket window or by calling (915) 747-5234. Gates are scheduled to open 30 minutes prior to first pitch each day.
Live stats for every game this weekend will be available by accessing the links on the UTEP Softball schedule page on UTEPMiners.com.
All UTEP home games will also be available to stream live on CUSA.TV for subscribers only.