Photo courtesy UTEP
UTEP softball (0-0) opens the 2021 season with a pair of double-headers in the 2021 Miner Invitational at Helen of Troy Field on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 11 and 12, versus No. 4 Oklahoma (0-0) and Abilene Christian (0-0).
The Miners begin Thursday’s competition with the Sooners at 10 a.m. and end with the Wildcats at 12:30 p.m.
UTEP’s Friday games have a first pitch time with ACU at 12:30 p.m. and Oklahoma at 3 p.m.
“With everything that happened last year, I’m just excited to get out onto the field regardless of what year it was,” UTEP Softball Head Coach TJ Hubbard said. “These kids, fans and everyone associated with our program have waited a long to see us get back out and play the game we love.”
Thursday’s game(s) will be the first time the Miners have opened the season at home since 2016.
The first Thursday contest between Oklahoma and UTEP will be available for video streaming on C-USA.TV. This will be the third matchup between UTEP and Oklahoma and the first meeting in over 15 years. The Sooners own the all-time record 2-0 over the Miners with their last wins coming in March 2005.
UTEP comes into this season following an abbreviated 5-17 campaign in Hubbard’s first year with the program in 2020. The Miners were slotted to finish sixth in the West Division in February’s C-USA Poll.
Highlighting the list of the 12 returning Miners is two-time C-USA Preseason Team selection Kasey Flores. Flores started in all of the Miners’ 22 games last season and led the team with 22 hits and 16 runs as she compiled a .338 batting average. Flores also knocked in 14 RBIs and belted six home runs. She led the team defensively with 65 assists en route to a .931 fielding percentage.
In Flores’s last full season at UTEP – her freshman year in 2019 – she started in 47 games and hit at a .352 clip with 51 hits and a .415 on-base percentage. She was third on the team with nine homers and second with 10 doubles.
Senior utility Ilena Santos led the Miners with eight home runs, six doubles, 24 RBIs and a .862 slugging percentage in their 22 games in 2020. Santos was second on the team in batting average at a .345 clip behind redshirt sophomore Idalis Mendez. Mendez hit for a team-high .357 average and a .448 on-base percentage in the first 56 at-bats her career.
The other half of the Miner roster is made up of 11 freshmen: three outfielders (Aaliyah Rebolledo, Anna Sample, Mackenzie Ward), three pitchers (Victoria Salazar, Menley Westhoff, Mackenzee Collins), two utilities (Ashlynn Allen, Autumn Scott) two infielders (Lexi Morales, Toni Gonzalez) and one catcher (Ashley Williams).
The four-time Women’s College World Series Champion Sooners finished 2020 with a 20-4 record, and in their last full season in 2019 were defeated by the No. 2-seeded UCLA Bruins, 5-4, in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma had three players – utility Jocelyn Alo, pitcher Giselle Juarez and utility Nicole Mendes – named to the 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 Watchlist.
Abilene Christian was selected to finish ninth out of 12 teams in the Southland Conference earlier this February. ACU was on pace to match its win total from 2019 (13-31, 6-21 Southland) under new head coach Abigail Farler until they ultimately finished 7-17 (0-3 Southland).
The Wildcats are 4-9 versus Conference USA schools all-time, their most recent matchups being with North Texas in 2020. They lost all three games against the Mean Green with a -16 run differential.
Outfielder Linsey Tomlinson and pitcher Samantha Bradley were selected to the Southland Conference Preseason Team earlier this month. Tomlinson hit for a .306 average while knocking in 22 RBIs over 44 games. Bradley recorded a 3.99 ERA in 2020 – the lowest of her career – over 72 innings pitched. She allowed four or more earned runs in six of her 14 outings.
For complete coverage of UTEP softball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPSoftball (Twitter), @utepsoftball (Instagram) and on Facebook or click here to visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.