File photo by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – UTEP freshmen Pamala Baber (two home runs) and Macey Brown (three RBI) had breakout performances as the Miners split their two games at New Mexico.
The Lobos (10-10) scored three runs in the sixth to rally from 6-4 down to win game one, 7-6, while the Miners (5-15) secured a 7-4 victory after scoring three runs in the seventh at Lobo Softball Field on a Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s nice to come off a hard loss when you’re ahead and you lose it towards the end of the game, so it’s nice to bounce back and get that win,” fourth-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “(In game two) when (New Mexico) tied it in the bottom of the sixth, it was one of those where the team could’ve crumbled and said, ‘oh, here we go again’, but they did nice job getting some runs and putting pressure on the other team.”
Baber connected on her first career home runs, one in each contest, and reached base in her last six at bats. Baber launched a monster two-run home run in the fourth inning of game one, the first of her career, and connected on a solo shot in the game two.
Baber, in those six at bats, homered and doubled in game one; followed with her second dinger, two consecutive walks and a single in game two.
Brown, who started at the designated player, had entered game two with no hits. Brown connected on her first career knock that resulted in a RBI and followed her next at bat with a two-run double.
“It’s nice to see (Baber and Brown) come into their own and finally start to hit the ball,” Echo-Hawk said. “We know they can hit. I think as freshman they’re working into things and getting used to how our game works, the speed of our game. They both had clutch hits, so I couldn’t be happier and I hope it continues.”
The Miners tallied 11 hits in the first game and a season-high 13 knocks in game two, making it five consecutive games with double-digit hits and eight of the last 11 contests.
UTEP 6, New Mexico 7
The Miners took a 4-0 lead after Baber’s two-run bomb over left. The scoring spree started with Courtney Clayton crossing the dish in the third inning. Clayton swiped third base, while an error by the catcher paved the way for the runner to score. In the fourth, prior to Baber’s home run, Mallorie Cross gave UTEP a 2-0, plating Mariah Ellis on a double to center. Ellis was hit by a pitch on the helmet to reach base.
New Mexico answered with three runs in the bottom fourth led by Cheyenne Smith’s two RBI. In the fifth, UTEP took a 5-3 lead on an Ellis RBI single that plated Lindsey Sokoloski.
UTEP would take a 6-4 lead in the sixth on a Sokoloski RBI double that scored Baber.
But the Lobos took the go-ahead 7-6 lead on a one-out, three-run home run by D’Andra DeFlora.
Sokoloski tied her career high with her second consecutive three-hit performance (3-for-4), while Cross established her career high with three knocks (3-for-4). Baber also registered a career bests in hits (two) and runs scored (two).
Taylor Grohmann started the contest, throwing 4.0 innings. UTEP stole three bases as Sokoloski swiped her second of the season, and Ellis and Clayton stole their first of the year.
UTEP 7, New Mexico 4
The Miners took a 4-1 lead in the sixth on Brown’s first career hit and RBI. But the Lobos would tie the contest in the bottom half on back-to-back home runs – a two-run shot by Michala Erickson and a solo shot by Lauren Wilmert.
But UTEP didn’t let it phase them as Pepi led off the seventh with a triple to deep right field. Ariel Blair was then inserted to pinch run for Pepi. Cross gave her squad a 5-4 lead on a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Blair. Baber followed with a two-out single, while Ryder reached on an error to set the stage for Brown.
The first-year Miner used her second career hit to double in Baber and Ryder to take the 7-4 lead.
Devyn Cretz (4-3) earned the win, throwing 1.2 innings. The redshirt freshman, who didn’t record a strikeout in her last start, fanned three Lobo batters. Cretz used back-to-back Ks to get Callie McGarrigle looking and Jade Gray swinging to end the contest.
Clayton recorded her seventh multi-hit game of the season and 49th of her career after a 3-for-5 outing. Ryder tied her career high in hits on a 3-for-4 performance, while Baber went 2-for-2 with two walks. Taylor Sargent was busy at first base as she recorded 10 putouts (17 total in the two games).
UTEP will open Conference USA action at North Texas March 11-12. The Miners and Mean Green will play a doubleheader on Saturday starting at noon MT/1 CT. Sunday’s series finale is set for noon MT in Denton. UTEP swept North Texas in El Paso last year, while the Mean Green won all three games against the Miners during the 2015 series.