LUBBOCK, Texas – Kiki Pepi tied her career high with five RBI and the UTEP softball team had an all-around solid performance to take down Wichita State, 6-1, on a sunny Sunday morning on the final day of the Texas Tech Invitational at Rocky Johnson Softball Field.
The Miners (4-14) recorded 12 hits on the day, as Pepi, Courtney Clayton and Lindsey Sokoloski each connected on three. Sokoloski set a career high in that department, while Clayton registered her sixth multi-hit game of the season and 48th of her career.
“Offensively, we had one of our better days,” fourth-year UTEP head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “We did a nice job, not only getting hits, but getting hits in key situations with runners in scoring position. We’ve struggled at times with that this season, so it was nice to see players step up and come through.”
Devyn Cretz (3-3) won her third game in her young career, hurling 5.1 frames and only allowing three hits with one earned run. Erika Harrawood, though didn’t get credit with the save, finished the contest (1.2 inning) and struck out Laurie Derrico to secure the victory.
UTEP put up two quick runs in the first as Wichita State starter Jenni Malone threw over 30 pitches. Clayton led off with a hard liner off Malone and Sokoloski followed with a slap-single to left. Cortney Smith reached on a walk to load the bases. Pepi then came up with a hard two-run single up the middle, plating Clayton and Sokoloski. Pepi has 17 RBI on the season and is hitting .347 after a slow start to the season.
“[Pepi] started a little slow, but she’s starting to find her groove,” Echo-Hawk said. She’s getting comfortable and sometimes that happens as you go just see more live pitching. As soon as you get a little more comfortable, you tend to be more successful. She’s just stayed the course and be positive. It’s paid off for her.”
The Shockers (11-6) answered with a run in the bottom first after Paige Luellen singled in Kelli Spring. Madison Perrigan then singled to put two runners on with two outs. But Cretz forced Macklin Hitz to fly out in foul territory as Taylor Sargent recorded the out.
After three scoreless frames and solid pitching from both sides, Sokoloski led off the fifth inning with a single to center as an error by the centerfielder advanced the speedster to third base. Smith then reached on an error and took second base in the process. Pepi grounded out, but it paved the way for Sokoloski to cross the dish and Smith to third.
Freshman Mallorie Cross, with two outs, followed with a single to right that plated Smith to give the Orange and Blue a comfortable 4-1 lead. Cross is hitting .355 with three RBI in her young career.
The following frame, Pepi recorded another pair of RBI on a single to right field that scored Ariel Blair and Clayton to put the Miners up 6-1.
The Shockers would load the bases in the bottom seventh with two outs, but Harrawood, who’s been clutch as of late, sealed the victory with the lone strikeout of the day.
UTEP will hit the road again as it will take on New Mexico in a doubleheader on March 8 starting at 2 p.m. in Albuquerque. The Miners will open Conference USA action at North Texas on March 11. The Orange and Blue will then play in El Paso for the first time this season as it will start a string of five home dates (eight games). UTEP will host Middle Tennessee (March 18-19), Southern Miss (March 25-26) and rival NM State in a two-game set (March 28).