UTEP Fr. P Victoria Salazar | Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – UTEP softball (11-25, 5-14 C-USA) split its double-header versus UTSA (13-20, 7-12 C-USA) Saturday afternoon at Roadrunner Field.
UTEP dropped game one by a score of 6-0 despite four multi-hit games throughout the Miner lineup. Freshman pitcher Victoria Salazar tossed 10 shutout innings in relief across the two games and earned the first victory of her career in the Miners’ 7-2 win in the nightcap.
It was UTEP’s largest margin of victory this season.
“(Salazar) was phenomenal today,” head coach T.J. Hubbard said. “She did a great job of moving the ball around and letting her defense work and that’s needed from her. She never panicked and gave her team a chance.”
The Roadrunners’ seven C-USA wins (.350 winning percentage) have officially eliminated the Miners from postseason contention.
Game 1: UTSA 6, UTEP 0
Redshirt sophomore outfielder began her three-extra-base hit day with a double in the first inning that nearly brought sophomore utility Zaylie Calderon around to score until she was thrown out at home plate.
The Roadrunners struck first with their first of three two-run homers in the game – all coming in back-to-back-to-back innings – in the bottom of the first. In the top half of the second, junior infielder Pate Cathey recorded her first of two doubles in her perfect 3-for-3 game.
Salazar entered the game in the third inning after UTSA hit its third two-run shot of the day, and from that point on, the Roadrunners were held in check with just two base hits for the rest of the contest.
Freshman utility Autumn Scott continued her hot start to the series after logging her first career base hits in game one with two more base hits in both games two and three. Accompanying Scott as another freshman that has turned on the heat this series is infielder Lexi Morales who has four hits and three RBIs through the first three games.
“(Scott and Morales) did a great job of getting in the box and finding a way to get on base and passing the bat to the next kid to help drive them in,” Hubbard said. “They’ve been a nice little spark to our lineup and they’re giving us multiple chance throughout the lineup where they’re spaced at to score runs.”
Scott and Morales have accounted for seven of the Miners’ 13 runs in the series.
Game 2: UTEP 7, UTSA 2
Calderon led off game two with a single up the middle – just like in game one – and would advance to second base on a bunt base hit by Scott. The Miners’ batting average leader Mendez – who was just coming off a three-run homer yesterday and two-base hits in the double-header opener – executed a sacrifice bunt to move Calderon and Scott into scoring position for Morales.
Morales completed the objective with a single to center field to bring home the first two runs of the game.
UTSA matched UTEP with two runs of its own in the bottom half.
Salazar entered the game in relief in the bottom of the second and shutout UTSA for the remainder of the game while limiting all but two of the Roadrunners she faced from reaching base. Salazar also induced two double plays in her outing.
Senior utility Ilena Santos put the next run on the board with a solo shot to left-center field in the fourth inning which would give the Miners the lead for the rest of the game, 3-2, and ensure Salazar’s first-career win. In the bottom half, Santos made a diving play behind second base to get UTEP back in the dugout.
The Miners tacked on two more the next frame after Scott reached base on an infield single and Mendez powered her first home run of the game to center field, 5-2.
“(Mendez) did a great job,” Hubbard said. “She hits the ball really hard and did what she needed to do, dropping sacrifice bunts to help the team and get in position to score. And in the next opportunity she had, she drove the ball out of the park. She has that capability every time she steps in the box. She’s an offensive beast for us.”
But Mendez wasn’t done yet, powering a towering home run to right field for her third longball in the last three games to bring her home run total to five on the season. It was the first two-homer game of Mendez’s career.
Mendez is 5-for-9 with six RBIs and four extra-base hits in her three games versus UTSA.
Next up, UTEP softball finishes its series versus UTSA and completes its season Sunday at Roadrunner Field with a first pitch time of 12 p.m. MT.