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Softball Battle of I-10 Set for Tuesday: UTEP vs NMSU

After coming off another Conference USA series win, the UTEP softball team will host I-10 rival NM State on Tuesday starting at 6 p.m.

The contest is an Orange Out – fans that wear orange will get in free.

The Miners (19-24) and Aggies (28-19) will play a single game, as it will be the third and final meeting of 2016.

All-Time Series vs. NM State

The Aggies lead the all-time series 27-10, while winning 13 of the last 14 contests. The Miners last defeated the Aggies 5-1 on March 4, 2014 in El Paso. NM State defeated UTEP earlier in the season in Las Cruces, winning 4-1 in Feb. 13 and 12-4 (five innings) the next day. Kiki Pepi, Kaitlin Ryder and Hope Moreno each went 2-for-6 (.333) during the two-game span. Pepi recorded a pair of RBI, while Ryder, Courtney Clayton and Lindsey Sokoloski each recorded an RBI.

Last Meeting

NM State defeated UTEP 12-4 in five innings on Feb. 14 in Las Cruces. The Miners scored four runs in the top of the fifth inning, to cut a 9-0 deficit to five runs, but the Aggies answered with a trio of runs in the home half. Kiki Pepi went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI, while Courtney Clayton and Lindsey Sokoloski each tallied an RBI.

UTEP’s Last Victory Over NM State

UTEP defeated NM State 5-1 on March 4, 2014 at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. The Miners used timely hitting, solid pitching and clutch defensive plays to snap a seven-game losing streak against the Aggies. UTEP jumped on NM State early, scoring a pair of runs in the fist inning.

Colleen Hohman walked with bases loaded to score the first run, while Kayla Black singled that brought a runner home. Tahla Wade tripled in the second, plating Miraya Montiel, making the score 3-0. The Aggies got a run in the sixth, but the Miners answered with another pair of runs. Danielle Pearson scored on an error, whileAlanna Leasau tallied an RBI single. Hohman picked up the win, throwing 5.0 innings, and Pearson picked up the save in a 2.0-inning effort. Montiel went 2-for-2 in the game.

Scouting NM State

The Aggies are 28-19 (8-1 WAC) after facing Grand Canyon last weekend. NM State split a double header against the Antelopes on April 15, falling 6-5 in game one, then rebounded in game two to capture an 8-0 victory in five innings. On April 16, the Aggies secured the series victory over GCU, 9-1.

NM State is hitting a .343 average with 41 home runs. Kelsey Horton leads the Aggies with a .389 average, 13 home runs, and 44 RBI. Fiana Finau (.374) follows with eight home runs and 42 RBI. As a team, the pitching staff has a collective 3.16 ERA in 283.2 innings, as Karysta Donisthorpe (8-8) paces the team with a 2.81 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 99.2 innings. Kayla Green (8-3) has a 3.31 ERA in 80.1 innings.

Comeback Kids

After rallying to beat Middle Tennessee on April 17, the Miners are proving to come up with clutch hitting. UTEP scored five runs in the seventh after being down 6-4 that resulted in a 9-6 triumph.  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.

Offensive Juggernaut

UTEP’s offense has been a hit thus far in 2016. The Miners rank first in doubles (62) and total bases (553) in Conference USA. The squad also ranks second in home runs (39) behind LA Tech (44), second in hitting (.320) behind FIU (.321), while also ranking no. 2 in slugging (.480) behind LA Tech (.481), and hits (368) behind FIU (387). UTEP ranks fifth in on-base percentage (.370), fifth in runs scored (206). The Miners rank fourth in RBI (185).

Cracking Jacks

The Miners have connected on 39 home runs so far in 2016, matching last season’s total. UTEP is on pace for around 48 home runs this season, which would finish fourth-best all-time. The Miners hit 45 in 2008, 50 in 2007, 57 in 2006, 62 in 2012 and a program-best 63 in 2009.

Crossing the Dish

UTEP has scored 206 runs in 2016 and is on pace for around 254 runs at 4.8 runs per game. The most runs scored all-time is 306 in 2007. It’s also the most runs per game since third-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk took over the program, while it’s the most since the Miners averaged 4.8 runs per game in 2010.

Grinding out Doubles

UTEP, after tallying seven more doubles at Middle Tennessee this past weekend, leads Conference USA with 62. The Miners have three players in the top 10 in Conference USA in doubles, as Courtney Clayton (15) leads the way; Taylor Sargent (12) is tied fourth with Southern Miss’ Tori Dew and Kiki Pepi (11) is ranked sixth.

The Miners are on pace for around 76 doubles, which would be the fourth most in program history. The 2008 team tallied 87 doubles, most all-time.

Connecting on Knocks

UTEP is averaging 8.6 hits per game. If the Miners keep this pace, they will have connected on 453 hits in 2016, which would rank no. 1 all-time. The 2009 squad set the program standard with 442 hits.

Potent Offense in League Play

UTEP ranks first in just about every offensive category in Conference USA game only. The Miners are hitting .354 in 15 league games – best in C-USA. The Miners also rank first in home runs (18), doubles (30), slugging (.544), on-base percentage (.394), total bases (241), RBI (80), hits (157) and runs (86).

Reducing Miscues

UTEP has committed 50 errors during the first 43 games in 2016, nine less than last season at this time. If the Miners keep this pace, they will have committed around 62 errors, which would be the second-least in program history. The 2007 defense committed only 59 in 2007. 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. North Texas (26) has committed the least amount of miscues in 2016.

#TurnUp

The Miners rank second in Conference USA with 20 double plays turned. Middle Tennessee leads the league with 21. OnMarch 13, UTEP tied a program record by turning a trio of double plays at Marshall. The feat as been achieved three other times – the last time being Feb. 13, 2005 against North Texas.

Last season, UTEP tied a program record with the 2007 team by registering 21 double plays. The Miners are on pace for about 25 double plays, which would rank no. 1 in school history. The Conference USA record is 32, by the 2009 UCF squad. FIU led the league in 2015 (24 DPs).

Born to Assist

The UTEP defense has shown considerable improvement, as it ranks first in Conference USA with 407 assists. The Miners are on pace for around 501 assists, which would be the most in school history. The 2015 squad recorded 489 (most in program history), while the 2009 team registered 488.

Linda’s Big Weekend

Starting catcher Linda Garcia had a breakout weekend at Middle Tennessee April 16-17. The sophomore hit .600 (6-for-10) with a pair of home runs, four RBI, a double, three runs scored and her first-career stolen base. Garcia tied her career high in hits on a 3-for-4 performance in game one.

She connected on a two-run home run that helped put the game away. She hit another home run the second game, a solo shot, while she registered an RBI double in game three that ignited a five-run seventh. Garcia has made a dramatic improvement from her first year, hitting .284 with five home runs, three doubles and 15 RBI. Last season, Garcia hit .192 with three jacks and 10 RBI.

Clutch Hitter

Danielle Pearson has hit the ball well this season, but had a pair of clutch hits in particular. Pearson came up with a big hit in the series finale at Middle Tennessee on April 17. With the score 6-5 in favor of the Blue Raiders, Pearson was inserted as a pinch hitter and came up with a go-ahead two-run double on a 0-2 count. The Miners went on to win the contest 9-6. On March 19 against LA Tech, Pearson recorded a single in the bottom of the eighth that brought the game-winning run across the dish during a 7-6 victory.

Leadoff Sensation

Leadoff hitter Courtney Clayton has had a sensational sophomore campaign thus far. Clayton is one of three Conference USA hitters with an average over .400. The Cornelius, Ore., native is ranked second with a .417 (63-for-151) batting average behind Marshall’s Kaelynn Greene (.458). Clayton leads the league with 15 doubles, while ranking second in hits (63), second in total bases (98), fifth in runs (36), fifth in slugging (.649) and tied ninth in RBI (32).

Clayton has only struck out eight times in 151 at bats, as she ranks fifth in C-USA and 97 nationally in toughest to strikeout. Clayton’s .475 (29-for-61) average in league only games is ranked second, while her 29 hits and seven doubles rank first in C-USA.

Seeing Doubles

Courtney Clayton is ranked no. 1 in Conference USA with 15 doubles. Her 0.35 doubles per game also ranks first in conference and 34th nationally. Camilla Carrera holds the school standard with 19 doubles in 2009. Ashley Eldridge (2014),Chelsea Troupe (2009) and Ashley Bennett (2005) each tallied 17 – second best in school history.

Clayton set her career high with two doubles against Grand Canyon on Feb. 21 and has accomplished the feat two more times (at Marshall onMarch 12; vs. New Mexico on March 15). East Carolina’s Kate Manuse holds the C-USA single-season record with 26 in 2004.

Clayton’s Career Average

Currently, Courtney Clayton’s career batting average is .358 (114-for-318) and ranked no. 4 on the all-time hitting list.Camilla Carrera is the all-time leader (.401 avg.), while Chelsea Troupe (.384) and Erika Arcuri (.357) round out the list. Clayton is 23 hits and two doubles from cracking the all-time list in each respective category. Clayton’s .566-career slugging is also ranked fourth all-time.

Pepped Up

Kiki Pepi has been stellar at the plate since arriving to UTEP. The San Diego, Calif., native is ranked third in Conference USA with 38 RBI, behind LA Tech’s Briana Daiss (42 RBI) and FIU Stephanie Texeira (39). Pepi ranked third on the team in hitting (.324) and ranks tied second in home runs (six).

Pepi has contributed with 45 hits, 18 runs, 11 doubles and a triple. After a 2-for-17 slump (March 4-12), Pepi is hitting .338 (23-for-68) with 16 RBI and a pair of home runs in her last 20 games (March 12-April 17). And after not recording an RBI in six straight contests (March 6-15), Pepi has tallied 16 RBI during the last 16 contests (March 19-April 5).

Vacuuming at Third Base

Kiki Pepi’s glove has been a Hoover at third base in 2016. The junior set a school record with nine assists at FIU in game one on March 25. The previous record was seven assists; accomplished seven times by six players. Pepi currently ranks third in Conference USA with 102 assists and is on pace for around 126, which would be a program record.

Pepi’s assists are also a game high in C-USA this season. Stacie Townsend holds the program single-season record with 114 in 2009.

Drill Sargent

Sophomore Taylor Sargent’s bat has made a dramatic improvement after hitting .232 in 2015. The native of Albuquerque, N.M., has been drilling doubles, ranking tied fourth in Conference USA with 12. Sargent ranks fourth on the team in hitting (.318), while connecting on two home runs with 16 RBI and 18 runs scored.

Defensively, Sargent has played first base and right field, pretty much splitting time between the two positions. She ranks second on the team in putouts (141). She is currently on a 10-game hitting streak (March 25-April 17), batting .324 (12-for-37) during that span. It’s the longest streak on the team thus far.

More from Moreno

Hope Moreno has seen more playing time as of late, while providing solid fielding and hitting. During her last 17 games (March 15-April 17), the sophomore is hitting .440 (22-for-50) with nine RBI, eight runs, four doubles and a pair of home runs. Her three-run bomb put the Miners up 9-2 in game two against UTSA on April 2.

Moreno also connected on a clutch two-run jack at FIU on March 26 that gave her squad a 6-3 lead. Moreno also recorded 13 putouts in back-to-back games on March 25, while recording 10 more the next day. The previous nine games (Feb. 26March 12), Moreno hit .238 (5-for-21). Moreno is hitting .425 (17-for-40) in league only games and is ranked seventh in Conference USA in that category.

The Ryd Stuff

Kaitlin Ryder had a good weekend at Middle Tennessee, hitting .462 (6-for-13) with a pair of RBI and a double. The Chatsworth, Calif., native has made a dramatic improvement in the batter’s box in 2016. After hitting .241 last season, the sophomore ranks second on the team in batting (.357), while leading in on-base percentage (.447).

Ryder also has three home runs, 21 RBI, ranks second on the team in runs (25), while digging out five doubles and a triple. Ryder has also shown patience at the plate, walking a team-high 20 times (ranks tied seventh in Conference USA).

Kawehi’s Bat Coming Alive

Senior outfielder Kawehiokalani Netane struggled the first part of the season. Netane hit .224 (11-for-49) with only one home run and four RBI in 20 games (Feb. 11-March 5). The last 23 contests, Netane is hitting .328 (20-for-61) with seven jacks, 16 RBI and 14 runs scored. She also registered a career-high two home runs and six RBI against Mount St. Mary’s on March 5 to begin the 20-game stretch.

Two More Wins for Fifield

Kaitlin Fifield has pitched well in Conference USA contests in 2016. After picking up a pair of wins at Middle Tennessee April 16-17, the junior is now 8-12 overall, but most importantly 6-3 in league games. After a 0-2 start in league play, Fifield has fashioned a 6-1 mark (March 19-April 17). Also with the two wins, Fifield is now ranked no. 4 on the all-time wins list in program history.

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