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Southern Miss Tops UTEP 6-1

Mallorie Cross registered a RBI and Kaitlin Ryder connected on a pair of hits, but Southern Miss behind, three solo home runs, downed UTEP 6-1 on a breezy Sunday afternoon at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.

The Miners (8-21, 3-6 Conference USA) and Golden Eagles (16-15, 3-6 C-USA) are tied in the West Division after Samantha Robles (3-5) threw another complete game victory, allowing only four hits.

UTEP, who had been hitting the ball well as of late, struggled on this Sunday afternoon.

“We’re going to work on things offensively this week to get back on track,” fourth-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “The first game, out bats were hot and then they kind of went away. We’ll pick the player’s brains to see where they’re at and where their mentality when they are up to bat so we can work on that this week in practice.”

The Miners will host I-10 rival NM State on March 28 in a doubleheader (5 p.m.). San Antonio is the next destination point for UTEP as it will play five contests. The first is a series at UTSA April 1-2 and two more games on April 3 against Incarnate Word.

Southern Miss took an early 2-0 lead in the first. Ciarra Cherry led the contest off with a walk, while Samantha Reynolds reached on a fielder’s choice sac-bunt. The defense went to throw out the lead runner Cherry, but was unsuccessful in the attempt. Cherry would reach third base on a throwing error in the process.

Lauren Holifield also reached on a fielder’s choice as the defense went after the lead runner Cherry at home, but she was called safe for the game’s first run.

Tori Dew then knocked in Reynolds on an RBI single up the middle. UTEP turned its third double play of the series on a liner hit to shortstop Cortney Smith, who made a diving snag to her right, while throwing out the runner at second. Samantha Papp flied out to center to end the top half.

In the bottom first with one out, Ryder connected on a towering shot that went down the left line, but the wind halted the momentum for a four-bagger, instead digging out a double as the ball dropped right at the fence. Smith walked with two outs to get a pair of runners on, but the Miners couldn’t sustain any more hits to get the runners across the dish.

In the third, Holifield hit the first of two solo home runs to put her squad up 3-0.

After a scoreless top fourth, the Miners got within two runs in the bottom half. Hope Moreno reached on a fielder’s choice and Lindsey Sokoloski singled up the middle to advance Moreno to second base. With two outs, Cross hit a blooper to shallow center that plated Moreno.

But Holifield hit her second solo shot in the fifth and pinch hitter Jade Lewis came up with the team’s third dinger of the game in the sixth to pull away.

Holifield finished the day 3-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored.

Ryder finished 2-for-3 and is hitting .444 (12-27) the last nine games with 12 RBI and three walks. Cross, after her 1-for-3, one-RBI day, is hitting .316 with 10 RBI this season.

Erika Harrawood (3-8) started the contest, hurling 5.1 frames. Kaitlin Fifield threw 1.2 innings.

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