No. 6 UTEP softball will play at the Conference USA Tournament for the first time since 2010, as it will have a rematch with No. 7 FIU on May 11 in the first round in Denton, Texas.
First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT/1:30 MT. The Miners (22-31, 13-11 Conference USA) swept the Panthers (29-26, 12-12 C-USA) on March 25-26 in Miami.
UTEP’s Postseason History
The Miners are playing in the Conference USA Tournament for the fourth time in program history. The Orange and Blue is 3-3 all-time in the conference tournament. In 2008 in Houston, Texas, UTEP defeated Tulsa 8-4 in the first round and fell to UCF 3-0 in the next round.
In 2009, when UTEP hosted the C-USA Tourney, the Miners advanced to the championship game after wins against East Carolina (4-3 ) and Southern Miss (5-4). But fell to Tulsa, 11-3, in the final day. The Miners were edged 4-2 against UCF in the opening round in the 2010 tournament in Houston.
Tobin Echo-Hawk in the Postseason
This isn’t first rodeo for third-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk, as she directed Portland State to four NCAA Tournament appearances (2009, 2010, 2012 & 2013) in five seasons. Echo-Hawk led the Vikings to four conference titles and four NCAA Regional Appearances. She recorded her first NCAA Tournament win as a coach on May 18, 2012, as Portland State topped Mississippi State, 2-0, in Eugene, Ore.
FIU heads into the Conference USA Softball Championships as the No. 7 seed after ending the season with a 12-12 conference record (29 -26 overall). The Panthers landed a tournament spot after their three-game sweep of Middle Tennessee last weekend (May 7-8) and finished in the top three in the East Division of the league standings.
In their conference series finale, FIU seniors all achieved career highs in hits. FIU finished the 2016 regular season with a collective .325 hitting average. Stephanie Texeira leads the Panthers with a .407 hitting average, 13 home runs, and 45 RBI. Jackie Schoff (.360 hitting average) contributes to the teams’ efforts with 14 RBI and leads the Panthers with 16 stolen bases. In the circle, Meg Kugelmann (7-5) leads the team with a 1.92 ERA in 84 innings, while tallying 54 strikeouts.
The FIU pitching staff as a whole boasts a 3.07 ERA and 215 strikeouts.
All-Time Series vs. FIU
UTEP leads the all-time series 6-0 since the two programs first faced off last year (April 11-12, 2015). In their first meeting, the Miners swept the Panthers in a three-game series at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. UTEP then squared off again with the Panthers this season in Miami (March 25-26), where the Miners swept the Panthers yet again in a three-game series.
Last Series (UTEP 3, FIU 0)
The Miners swept the Panthers in a three-game set on March 25-26 in Miami, Fla. UTEP defeated FIU 2-1 in game one, 7-6 in game two, and 6-4 in the series finale. The Miners, overall, hit a .337 average in the series with five home runs, and 14 RBI. Courtney Clayton hit a .583 average with one home run, while Hope Moreno and Kawehiokalani Netane both hit .500 each.
Netane had five RBI and two home runs, as Moreno punched out a home run as well. Kaitlin Fifield won two contests, throwing a total of 14 innings, striking out five and fashioning a 2.50 ERA. The Miners’ pitching staff totaled a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings against the Panthers.
On the Offensive
UTEP’s .309 batting average currently ranks no. 3 in Conference USA behind FIU (.325) and Marshall (.311). Florida Atlantic (.303) ranks no. 4. Nationally, the Miners rank no. 54 in overall batting. In C-USA only games, the Miners are hitting an outstanding .325 in 24 games, ranking no. 2 behind FIU (.328). UTEP’s current average is the highest in school history, while the 2007 team hit .303.
UTEP hit six more home runs during its sweep over North Texas on April 30-May 1, giving the club 50 dingers in 2016 and the most since hitting 62 in 2012. The Miners rank second in Conference USA behind LA Tech (60). Nationally, UTEP is ranked tied 54th with Florida State in home runs per game (.94).
The Miners also leads C-USA with 29 home runs in C-USA games only, three more than LA Tech. UTEP has tied the 2007 squad for fourth-most home runs in program history. The 2009 team hit a school record 63, while the 2006 squad hit 57.
Breaking Down the Home Runs
Ten Miners have hit 50 home runs thus far in 2016. Ten players also connected on long balls in 2015, 2009 and 2006. But of the 10 this year, eight sluggers have hit four or more dingers, matching the 2006 squad, which finished the season with 57 home runs.
Double Your Pleasure
UTEP has racked up the doubles in 2016, as it leads Conference USA with 81 after tallying four more at Southern Miss. The Miners are ranked no. 41 nationally at 1.53 doubles per game; Loyola Marymount leads the nation with 98 doubles (1.96 p/g).
Three Miners rank in the top 10 in C-USA, as Courtney Clayton is tied for the league lead with 20, Taylor Sargent ranks fifth with 15 and Kiki Pepi ranks sixth with 13 doubles. UTEP also leads with 48 doubles in C-USA games only. The 2008 squad owns the school standard (87), while the 2009 (84) and 2007 (84) teams round out the list.
Crossing the Dish
UTEP has scored 240 runs in 2016, the seventh most in program history. The Miners ranks sixth in Conference USA in runs behind Charlotte (247); LA Tech leads the way (301). The most runs scored all-time is 306 in 2007. UTEP is averaging 4.5 runs per game. The Miners averaged 4.5 runs per game in 2014 and 4.2 last season.
Offensive Onslaught in C-USA Games
In 24 Conference USA contests, UTEP ranks no. 2 in hitting (.325); leads in doubles (48), hits (226), home runs (29), RBI (110), slugging (.519) and total bases (361). UTEP ranks no. 2 in runs (120) behind Florida Atlantic (130).
UTEP has turned 28 double plays in 2016 – a program record, while ranking first in Conference USA. The Miners turned two more double plays this past weekend at Southern Miss. UTEP also tied a school record by turning three double plays at Marshall on March 13. The feat has been achieved three other times.
Nationally, UTEP is ranked no. 11 in double plays turned per game (.53). UCLA leads the nation in double plays (38) and double plays p/g (.78).
Born to Assist
UTEP leads Conference USA and set single-season school record with 514 assists. UTEP recorded 17 assists in a pair of games (at FIU [3/26] & at Middle Tennessee [4/16]) in 2016, the second most in a single game in school history.
Kiki Pepileads the Miners with her single-season program-record 126 assists, surpassing the old mark of 114 by Stacie Townsend in 2009. Courtney Clayton ranks second on the team with 117 assists, while it’s the second-most during a single season in program annals.
UTEP has committed 60 errors during its 53 games in 2016, 13 less than last season. The 2007 defense committed only 59 in 2007 and 60 in 2008. The fielding has improved, somewhat, during the last few seasons. In 2012, UTEP committed 86 errors, while in 2013, 81 miscues were scored.
Since Tobin Echo-Hawk and Cristina Cobb-Adams – both infielders in college – arrived to the Sun City, the Miners committed 69 in 2014 and 73 last season.
After rallying to beat North Texas games two and three April 30-May 1, the Miners are proving to come up with clutch hitting. The Miners also rallied to beat Middle Tennessee on April 17. UTEP scored five runs in the seventh after being down 6-4 that resulted in a 9-6 triumph against the Blue Raiders. The Miners have shown in multiple games that they can rally to beat teams.
On Feb. 13 against Incarnate Word, UTEP scored three runs in the top seventh, resulting in a 5-3 win. On March 19 against LA Tech, the Miners were down 6-4 after two frames, but came back to outscore the Lady Techsters 9-1 to claim a 13-7 win. In game two against the same squad, LA Tech tied the contest 6-6 with a three-run sixth and the Miners won 7-6 in the bottom eighth.
At FIU (March 25-26), UTEP found itself down in a trio of contests, but rallied to win all three. UTEP was down 3-0 to UTSA on April 2 and rallied win 5-3.
Courtney Clayton, after displaying her slugging abilities her freshman season, is having a spectacular sophomore campaign. Clayton broke a pair of single-season records in 2016. Clayton recorded double no. 20 in the first inning of the May 1 series finale against North Texas.
Clayton tallied a pair of hits at Southern Miss to extend her school record to 77 hits. Clayton broke Camilla Carrera’s seven-year record of 19 doubles and 73 hits during the 2009 season.
Courtney Clayton is referred to as C.C. by her teammate, which fits as she has racked up the doubles. Clayton with her school-record 20 doubles is tied for the lead in Conference USA with Florida Atlantic’s Melissa Martinez. Clayton also ranks no. 13 nationally at .38 doubles per game.
South Carolina’s Kaylea Snaer and Samford’s Megan Dowdy lead the way with 24 doubles (.44 p/g). ECU’s Kate Manuse holds the C-USA single-season record with 26 doubles in 2004.
Toughest to Strikeout
Courtney Clayton has only struck out nine times in 183 at bats (20.3) this season. Clayton ranks fourth in Conference USA and 61st nationally. Clayton hasn’t racked up many Ks since arriving to UTEP, as she only fanned eight times in 167 at bats (20.9) her freshman season. Caitlin Attfield leads the conference (41.5). In 2014, Erika Arcuri ranked third in C-USA and no. 43 nationally at 20.5 (eight Ks in 164 at bats).
Courtney Clayton ranks no. 2 in batting average (.421) in Conference USA behind Marshall’s Kaelynn Greene (.488). Nationally, Clayton ranks no. 49 in hitting. Besides being tied for the league lead in doubles (20), Clayton is ranked no. 2 in hits (77), total bases (120), no. 5 in slugging (.656), no. 8 in on-base percentage (.443), no. 6 in runs (44) and tied no. 14 in RBI (34). Clayton owns a team-high 28-multiple hit games.
Clayton’s Defensive Efforts
Courtney Clayton has started 43 games at second base and 10 at the shortstop positions in 2016. She ranks second on the team and fifth in Conference USA with 117 assists. Clayton ranks no. 2 on the all-time list single-season list with her current total. Teammate Kiki Pepi owns the single-season best with her 126 assists, while Stacie Townsend’s 114 assists ranks no. 3. Clayton has also recorded 93 putouts.
Clayton in C-USA Games Only
Courtney Clayton had a 21-game hitting streak (March 13-May 7) in Conference USA games only end on May 8. Clayton is ranked second in batting (.467), first in hits (43) and doubles (12) in C-USA games only. Clayton ranks seventh in slugging (.696) and sixth in on-base percentage (.484), while her 21 runs are ranked tied fourth. Clayton has hit three home runs with 12 RBI in 21 league contests.
Clayton’s Career Average
Courtney Clayton is currently ranked no. 3 on the all-time hitting list in UTEP history. Clayton will enter the Conference USA Tournament with a .366 average (128-of-350), behind sluggers Chelsea Troupe (.384) and Camilla Carrera (.401).
Pepped Offense for Pepi
Kiki Pepi had a nice offensive weekend against North Texas, hitting .364 with a home run, four RBI, a double and a pair of runs scored. Pepi’s 42 RBI ranks tied sixth in Conference USA.
In game one against North Texas, Pepi registered her first RBI since April 16 at Middle Tennessee, while in game two, Pepi connected on her seventh home run and first since March 25 at FIU. Pepi ranks fourth on the team in hitting (.324); ranks tied second with seven home runs and has crossed home plate 22 times.
More on Pepi’s RBI Output
Kiki Pepi’s 42 RBI in 2016 is tied with Camilla Carrera (2010) for fourth most in a single season in school history. Chelsea Troupe recorded 44 in 2012, while Carrera also had 44 in 2009. Carrera holds the school standard with 66 RBI in 2012.
Kiki Pepi’s glove has been a Hoover, as the starting third baseman set a single-season record by recording 126 assists thus far in 2016. She surpassed the old mark of 114 by Stacie Townsend in 2009. Pepi also set a school record by registering nine assists at FIU on March 25, while it was the third-most assists recorded in a single game with nine other players nationally.
The junior ranks no. 3 in Conference USA behind LA Tech’s Katie Smith (139) and Southern Miss’ Morgan McKeever (127).
More From Moreno
Hope Moreno has started the last 36 contests at first base and has produced great numbers. The sophomore ranks third in hitting (.331) with five home runs and 16 RBI. During her last 27 games (March 15-May 8), the sophomore is hitting .382 (29-for-76) with 13 RBI, 10 runs, five doubles and a trio of home runs.
She’s been solid at first base, as Moreno recorded 13 putouts in back-to-back games on March 25, while recording 10 more the next day. The previous nine games (Feb. 26-March 12), Moreno hit .238 (5-for-21). Moreno is also hitting .359 in league only games. Moreno leads the Miners and ranks no. 8 in Conference USA with 307 putouts – the fourth most during a single season in UTEP history. Kayleigh Waltsrecorded a season-best 372 putouts.
Getting Hit On
Hope Moreno has been hit 10 times by pitches this season. Moreno ranks tied no. 5 in Conference USA and is one hit by pitch away from tying a school record. Ashley Ellis (2009) and Amber Bennett (2007) were hit 11 times during their respective seasons. Moreno was hit a team leading eight times in 2015 and has racked up 18 hit by pitches in her career, ranking no. 6 on the all-time list.
Bennett was hit 27 times during her career. UTSA’s Tess Soefje leads C-USA with 31.
The Ryd Stuff
Kaitlin Ryder has made a dramatic improvement in the batter’s box in 2016. After hitting .241 last year, the sophomore ranks second on the team in batting (.338). Ryder has five home runs, 27 RBI, ranks second on the team in runs (30), while digging out seven doubles and a triple. Ryder has also shown patience at the plate, walking a team-high 23 times (ranks tied eighth in Conference USA).
Taylor Sargent tallied two more doubles this past weekend, as her bat has made a big improvement after hitting .232 in 2015. The sophomore has also been drilling doubles, ranking fifth in Conference USA with 15. Sargent ranks fifth on the team in hitting (.316), while connecting on four home runs with 18 RBI and 21 runs scored.
Defensively, Sargent has played some first base, but mostly right field this season. She ranks tied second in putouts (157). She had a 10-game hitting streak end (March 25-April 17), batting .324 (12-for-37) during that span. It’s the longest streak on the team thus far.
Linda’s Bat Catching On
Starting catcher Linda Garcia is another UTEP sophomore making major improvements in her offensive output. Garcia hit a pair of home runs against North Texas, in which one of them was a two-run go-ahead shot in the fifth inning in the series finale. Garcia also recorded a team-high five RBI against North Texas.
After hitting .192 with three home runs, 10 RBI, three doubles and seven runs, Garcia’s numbers have dramatically improved, as she is hitting .243 with seven home runs (tied second on the team), 20 RBI, four doubles and 15 runs scored.
Moving Up the Win’s Ladder
Starting pitchers Danielle Pearson and Kaitlin Fifield each added more wins their respective careers a few weeks ago. Pearson defeated North Texas on April 30, in which she earned her 25th win in her career. Pearson now ranks no. 2 all alone now, surpassing Kelly Curran’s total of 24 victories.
Fifield eared a pair of wins against the Mean Green and ranks no. 4 on the all-time win’s list with 21 wins. Stacie Townsend is no. 1 all-time with 64 triumphs. Fifield has won a career-high 10 games this season, while Pearson has tied her career best with seven victories in 2016.
More on Fifield
Kaitlin Fifield doesn’t rack up the strikeouts, but racks up the outs as she has forced a single-season best 295 groundouts in 2016. Last season, Fifield’s 261 forced groundouts ranked no. 3 in the single-season list. Stacie Townsend forced 275 in 2009.
Fifield has 593-career forced groundouts, ranking no. 3 on the all-time list behind Danielle Pearson (611) and Townsend (739).