The UTEP softball team fought on Saturday and bounced back to win both contests; the Miners did it again on Senior Day as they rallied from a 5-0 deficit to defeat LA Tech, 6-5, on a sunny and clear Sunday afternoon at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
UTEP’s trio of seniors, as they did all weekend, came through in the clutch during the series finale. In fact, they recorded the final three outs of the game. Taylor Sargent tallied the first out in right field, Courtney Clayton registered an assist on an out to first base, and Kailin Ryder caught the game-clinching strikeout.
“The team played hard this weekend and there was no quit in them. We just kept fighting,” fifth-year UTEP head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said.
After Sargent homered for the go-ahead lead in game one, and Courtney Clayton’s two-run shot in game two started a rally, fellow senior Ryder joined the long-ball club by unloading a game-tying two-out, three-run home run on a 2-1 pitch over left during the big five-run fifth inning.
“(Ryder) was clutch and it couldn’t have happened to a better kid,” Echo-Hawk said. “All of the seniors were clutch this weekend going out the way they did. I’m so happy for them because they deserve it.”
Cortney Smith, a 2019 senior, followed with the go-ahead one-run double that plated pinch runner Jordyn Quevedo. The freshman was inserted for Kacey Duffield who had doubled following Ryder’s dinger. Smith finished the day 3-for-3 with a walk and RBI, while posting a .317 batting average to conclude her junior season.
With the victory, the Miners knocked the Lady Techsters to the no. 4 seed, but have been eliminated from postseason action with WKU defeating FIU 1-0 earlier on Sunday morning.
“It’s a great way to finish, we did our job,” Echo-Hawk said. “It’s just a little heartbreaking that we had to rely on someone else.”
UTEP recorded 12 hits, led by Clayton’s 3-for-4, two-run outing. The Cornelius, Ore., native also became the program’s all-time leader with 75 multi-hit games and will finished her UTEP career with 251 hits, second only behind Miner great Camilla Carrera (260). The 2016 C-USA Player of the Year will also finish third on the program’s all-time batting list with a .365 career average. Clayton’s 143 career runs ranks fifth all-time.
Clayton led the Miners in hitting (.413), home runs (eight – career high), runs (42), doubles (15), triples (four) and RBI (32). Her 71 hits will rank third most during a single season in program history, while her batting average is fourth best all-time. Her 42 runs rank tied for sixth most during a single season.
Ryder finished 2-for-4 with three-RBI and a run. With her trio of RBI, Ryder is the ninth Miner to hit the 100-RBI club as she finishes with 101 and is tied for eighth on the all-time home run’s list with 18 career bombs.
Ryder finished the season hitting .348, including a .444 batting average the last 20 games of the season. Ryder connected on four home runs and ranked second on the team with 26 RBI. The Chatsworth, Calif., native finished with a career-high 10 doubles and career-best two triples.
Sargent will finish her UTEP career tied for no. 1 with 41 double plays turned, while her .983 career fielding percentage will rank fifth on the all-time list.
Sargent finished the season hitting .278 with two dingers and 18 RBI. The Albuquerque, N.M., native scored 22 runs and recorded 116 putouts and 10 assists.
Clayton’s, Ryder’s and Sargent’s teammates also contributed on Senior Day as freshman Ariana Valles drove in the first run during the sixth. Valles led the team with 104 assists as a freshman, starting all 54 games. Duffield went 2-for-3 with a RBI during the fifth that started the scoring rally. Duffield finishes her first season as Miner with a .290 average, five home runs and 22 RBI, while leading the squad with 230 putouts.
Kira McKechnie made the start, while Julia Wright came into relief to register the win. Both McKechnie and Wright will be seniors next season. Wright won her seventh game in her first season as a Miner after transferring from Ranger College. Wright threw 2.0 solid frames and struck out the last batter looking with two runners on the seventh.
McKechnie led the staff in wins (nine) and threw 5.0 innings on Sunday, allowing four hits and tallying four K’s. Both finished with 134.1 innings, while Wright registered four saves, tying the program’s single-season mark.
Pamala Baber went 1-for-1 and drew a walk to lead off the. Baber doubled with one out in the sixth. Valles drove Baber home for the first run of the inning. Baber finished her sophomore campaign with a .326 batting average, a dramatic improvement from last season’s .211 average.
Photo gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post
While the initial information was provided by either UTEP or UTEP Athletics, it has been reviewed and copy-checked by a Herald-Post editor. In some cases, the text has been reformatted for better readability.