Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
BIRMINGHAM, Al – The UTEP softball team (10-23, 4-7 Conference USA) used a four-run third inning to defeat UAB (13-20, 3-8 C-USA), 7-3, in the second game of the day. The Miners fell earlier in the day, 5-1 , to the Blazers at Mary Bowers Field.
UTEP defeated the Blazers in Birmingham for the first time since the 2009 season.
Kira McKechnie pitched a 7.0-inning complete game, stifling the UAB bats for the win. The senior assembled one of her better C-USA starts, walking only two and striking out four.
Cortney Smith hit .500 (4-8) on the day with her 10th homer of the season. Smith’s dinger extended her lead in C-USA as she became the first player in the league with double-digit homers. Kasey Flores recorded two RBIs in game two and four different Miners added two hits to the board.
Julia Wright pitched 8.2 innings in UTEP’s first game of the day. She gave up no earned runs until the final batter of the game, and almost willed her team to victory in the circle.
The Miners defeated UAB, 7-3, for the first time in Birmingham, Ala., since March 29, 2009 behind a gem from Kira McKechnie in the circle. She received help from the offense as it recorded nine hits in the batter’s box, while breaking a 2-2 tie to take a 6-2 advantage after a four-run third inning.
McKechnie pitched a complete game with four strikeouts in the victory over the Blazers. This was McKechnie’s third victory of the season
Kasey Flores produced two RBIs on two sacrifice flies in the game. Linda Garcia, Cathey, Duffield and Smith all recorded two hits for the Miner offense.
UTEP got off to a quick start in the first inning. Ariana Valles walked and then eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Flores. Duffield recorded a single and would score on an error from the Blazers to give the Miners a 2-0 lead.
UAB would respond with a two-run shot in the second frame.
The Orange and Blue saw a huge third inning to reclaim the lead. Blair and Valles led off the inning by getting on base. Duffield laid down a beautiful bunt that not only advanced the runners, but also put the senior on base with no outs. Flores added another sacrifice fly to her day and brought in Blair. Pate Cathey registered a single to score another run, and then Smith would score as Cathey was caught in a run down. The four runs in the frame gave the Miners some much-needed breathing room to go up 6-2.
The Blazers would add another run in the sixth to cut into the deficit, 6-3.
The Miners were looking for insurance runs heading into the seventh inning. Flores started things off with a walk and then Smith singled down the left-field line. Cathey laid down a masterful bunt to reach first base and load the bases with no outs. Garcia grounded out, but in the process scored Flores. That would be all of the damage for UTEP in the seventh, but an extra run gave the Miners a little room to feel comfortable, up 7-3.
The Miners fell in nine innings, 5-1, in the first game of the weekend.
Cortney Smith hit her 10th homer the season in the seventh inning, which gave her sole possession of fourth all-time (27) in UTEP history and extended the game into extra innings. Ariel Blair recorded her fifth steal of the year and moved into fifth all-time (22) in the Miner history books. Ilena Santos went 2-4 in the contest with a double and a single.
Julia Wright threw a gem for 8.2 innings. She gave up no earned runs until the dramatic ninth inning and recorded three strikeouts. Wright kept the Blazers’ bats in check during a stretch where she sat down 10 of 11 batters starting in the sixth frame through the ninth.
The Blazers recorded their first run of the game on an error in the first inning, and from then on Wright asserted her dominance.
Santos recorded the first hit of the game with a double in the fifth inning, but was unable to move any further.
UTEP’s defense was on point with nine groundouts behind Wright in the circle, and their league-leading 21st double play of the season.
The Miners were facing the 1-0 deficit heading into the seventh frame. Smith needed only one pitch to even the game up. The senior went yard for her 10th of the season. With one swing of the bat she extended her C-USA lead in homers (10) and gave UTEP a fighting chance for a road-conference victory.
The Orange and Blue would record two more hits in the inning to get runners on second and third, but failed to take the lead.
The Miner defense made quick work of the Blazers offense in the seventh and eighth frames with Wright still in the circle.
Smith came back up to the plate to lead off the ninth inning and stayed hot, singling to reach base with no outs. The senior found her way to third base, but UTEP could not push her across.
UAB faced two outs with the bases loaded, and came up big with a homer to end the game in nine.
>> First time the Miners have won at UAB since March 29, 2009
>> Game one was the longest game of the season (Nine innings) for the Miners
>> Blair is now fifth all-time in stolen bases in program history
>> Smith is now fourth all-time in home runs (27) in UTEP history