Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
The UTEP softball team (13-29, 6-11 Conference USA) defeated Florida Atlantic (18-24, 5-12 C-USA), 9-5 and 8-0 , on Friday evening at Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
UTEP amassed eight runs during the fourth frame in game one and followed with a three-run sixth during the second contest. The Miners, in the process, recorded their first ever run-rule victory over Florida Atlantic.
“Two great wins. I think our hitters did a good job of putting pressure on them, and making them make mistakes. Julia (Wright) did a great job with their hitters this second game. I know Kira (McKechnie) maybe didn’t have her best stuff, but she battled all day, and it was nice for Julia to come in that first game and get the save,” Coach Tobin Echo-Hawks said. “I know that this team is determined, and they know what we need to do in order to make it to the conference tournament. They are really invested, and are putting everything they have into it.”
The Miners also forced seven errors as the Owls committed three during the first contest and four more in the night game.
The day-one sweep secured the first ever series victory against the Owls in program history. The nine runs during game one are also the most UTEP has ever produced against FAU.
Pamala Baber went 3-4 on the day, with three RBIs, two doubles and a .875 on-base percentage. Linda Garcia totaled four hits and three RBIs in the two victories. Pate Cathey also tallied four hits, along with two RBIs. Kacey Duffield has now reached base in 38 games this year, and also recorded her 10th bomb of the season.
Julia Wright recorded a complete-game shutout in game two, and the first save of the season in game one.
The Miners have now leap frogged FAU in the conference standings, and are tied with UTSA, which dropped two to North Texas Friday afternoon. UTEP is tied for seventh in the C-USA standings heading into Sunday’s series finale.
UTEP exploded for eight runs in the fourth inning to defeat FAU in game one of the series, 9-5.
Garcia and Cathey put on a clinic at the plate with three hits each and three RBIs total between the pair of sluggers. Baber also notched two RBIs on the day behind two hits.
McKechnie threw 6.1 innings with six strikeouts in the victory. Wright entered in relief and recorded the first save of the season for the Miners.
The Owls took an early 3-0 lead behind four hits during the second inning.
The Miners would respond when Ariana Valles and Baber both were hit by pitches to lead off the bottom half of the frame. Both runners advanced on a passed ball followed by Garcia knocking in Valles on a single, cutting into the deficit, 3-1.
McKechnie held down the fort for the Miner defense through four innings. She didn’t allow any more runs and gave the UTEP offense a chance to catch up.
The wait was over in the bottom of the fourth. The Miners offense exploded for eight runs in the inning. Florida Atlantic committed three errors and UTEP recorded six hits, including two by Garcia. The Orange and Blue gave itself a comfortable 9-3 advantage.
FAU made things interesting with a two-run homer by Mia Olson to cut the deficit to 9-5 in the top of the fifth.
The Miners would load the bases in the bottom of the sixth, attempting to add run support. However, they could not add any more runs to the board.
In the top of the seventh frame, the Owls loaded the bases with the tying run at the plate and two outs. Wright entered the game with one out to relieve McKechnie, and promptly locked in the two outs necessary to win the game for the Miners. Wright struck out Lauren Whitt and forced a Maya Amm groundout to end the contest. Wright earned her fifth career save, tying for second most on the program’s all-time list.
UTEP smacked eight hits and benefited from four errors by FAU in game two of the doubleheader, chalking up an 8-0  victory.
Wright held it down in the circle, pitching a complete-game shutout over Florida Atlantic.
The Orange and Blue was led by Duffield at the plate. The senior recorded three hits, including her 10th dinger of the year. Cathey, Smith, Baber and Garcia all registered RBIs in the game as well.
The Miners took an early 1-0 edge in the first frame. Flores drew a walk. while Duffield singled to get the offense started. An error by the Owls loaded the bases for the Miners, then Baber forced a walk with bases loaded, scoring Flores.
A sacrifice fly from Cortney Smith scored Flores that tacked on another run to extend the lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the third.
The third frame saw the Miners add two more runs to take a 4-0 lead on an error by the visitors, and an RBI single by Garcia.
Duffield blasted her 10th homer of the season in the bottom of the fifth, allowing UTEP to take a 5-0 lead and seizing complete control of the game over Florida Atlantic.
Wright only saw four batters in the top of the sixth, and set up the Miners to win the game by run-rule in the bottom half of the frame.
The bottom of the sixth was a microcosm of the day for the Owls. UTEP recorded strong hit balls through the defense, and when FAU did have an opportunity to make a play, it failed to seize the moment. The Miners scored three runs in the inning on two hits and two errors. The game winning run scored when the second baseman for the Owls over threw the catcher, securing the victory for the Miners. Ilena Santos scored the first run on a Cathey single, while Lindsey Sokoloski, who reached on a fielder’s choice, slid home on a wild pitch, and Cathey crossed the dish on a throwing error, exciting the Miner faithful.
>> First ever series win over FAU
>> Recorded the most runs scored against the Owls in program history (nine)
>> Duffield recorded her 10th homer of the year, and this is the first time she has reached double-digit homers in her UTEP career
>> Duffield has reached base in 38 of the Miners’ 42 games this season
>> Wright recorded the fifth save of her career (tied second on the all-time list with Kaitlin Fifield), and threw the second complete-game shutout of her career
On deck, UTEP will look for the series sweep tomorrow at noon against FAU.