UTEP’s #8 Linda Garcia
DENTON, Texas – Hope Moreno tied her career high in hits (3-for-3), but North Texas jumped on UTEP early and never looked back to complete the Conference USA opening sweep, 9-1 (6), on a cold Sunday afternoon at Lovelace Stadium
The Miners (5-18, 0-3 C-USA) will start winless in league play for a second consecutive season, while the Mean Green (14-9, 3-0 C-USA) reversed their fortunes from last season to start conference action undefeated.
UTEP started 0-3 last season after being swept at Marshall, but would go on to win its next eight C-USA games.
North Texas scored four runs in the first and two more the following frame. In the first, Lacy Gregory connected on a two-run home run on a 2-0 pitch, while an error in deep left field by Kaitlin Ryder with two outs paved the way for two runs to score. In the second inning, Lacey Gregory and Harley Parella each registered an RBI.
UTEP would load the bases in back-to-back innings, but couldn’t come up with clutch hits.
Bases were juiced with one out in the fifth, when Hope Moreno singled, Ryder reached on a fielder’s choice (Moreno safe at second on an error) and Pamala Baber drew a full-count walk. But Macey Brown hit into a double play to end the rally.
In the sixth, with two outs, Kiki Pepi walked on a 3-1 pitch and Cortney Smith singled to left. Moreno came up with her third hit of the contest, plating Pepi for the Miners’ only run on the day. Ryder also drew a walk to load the bases. Mallorie Cross then flied out to center to end another rally.
The Mean Green loaded the bases in the sixth as the game-winning run crossed on a walk. UTEP pitchers combined for seven walks to no strikeouts.
UTEP will host its first home contests of 2017 as C-USA foe Middle Tennessee will make its way to the Sun City for a March 18-19 three-game set. The Miners will then host league opponent Southern Miss March 25-26
and I-10 rival NM State in a doubleheader March 28 at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.