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Home | Tag Archives: florida atlantic

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With Final Game, Miner Softball Seniors Lift UTEP over Florida Atlantic 6-4

UTEP softball head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk took her Senior Day lineup card and worked some magic as UTEP (12-36, 6-18 Conference USA) spoiled Florida Atlantic’s (35-20, 15-9 C-USA) bid for the no. 3 spot in the C-USA Tournament.

The Miners used three runs in the third that started with a Taylor Grohmann single to defeat the Owls, 6-4, in their final contest of 2017 on Senior Day at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.

“The season hasn’t gone the way we wanted, but [the Miners] came out and they fought,” Echo-Hawk said. “That’s how we’ve been all year, we just keep fighting. It may not be pretty, it may not go the way we wanted it to but the team never quit. They just kept battling – even yesterday they were scrappy. Today they committed to each other, said they were going to show up and play with everything they have. As a whole, our entire team played a great game. And everyone contributed.”

One the of magical moves was when Grohmann, a senior pitcher, was inserted as pinch hitter in the no. 2 spot for junior Courtney Clayton in the third inning. Grohmann’s first career at-bat produced a single on a 2-1 pitch to left with junior Kaitlin Ryder on and two outs.

“It was nice because [Grohmann’s] mom last night asked me if I can give her an at bat and I said ‘absolutely’, this day is about [the seniors] and that’s the most important thing,” Echo-Hawk said. “She got up there and singled. We worked on some things this past week and, man, when she hit it, it was so exciting. You couldn’t ask for a better moment.”

Continuing the third frame, sophomore Cortney Smith reached after being hit by a pitch to load bases for Kiki Pepi who connected on a two-run single to right that plated Ryder and Grohmann to give the Miners a 2-0 lead. Smith would eventually cross the dish in the frame on an error to put her squad up, 3-0.

Pepi then used her third RBI of the game to put the Miners up 4-1 on a single to right that scored Clayton. In the sixth, sophomore Brianna Red led off with a bunt single, senior Miranda Gutierrez and Ryder each drew walks that set up a Clayton sacrifice fly to center to plate Red. Pepi then gave the Orange and Blue a 6-1 lead another sac-fly to center that scored Gutierrez.

The Owls, however, would not go down easily as they scratched out three runs in the seventh with two outs, but senior hurler Kaitlin Fifield would not let her team come out on the losing end. Fifield earned her third save of the season after throwing 2.2 frames and it was only fitting that Delaney Rickey grounded out to the pitcher to end the Senior Day contest. Fifield ended her career with five saves to rank no. 2 on UTEP’s all-time list.

Grohmann (2-2), whose bat was lit, earned the win after throwing an inning and tallying a strikeout. Senior Erika Harrawood made the start, her staff-leading 17th of the season. Harrawood pitched 3.1 innings, striking out three and walking none.

“It feels great to see our senior pitchers end their careers the way they did,” Echo-Hawk said. “It was a perfect ending for Grohmann to get her last career strikeout. For them to come out and pitch some of their best innings was just a great thing. I think it just shows they have a lot of heart and play for the love of the game.”

Back to the offense, the Miners registered seven big hits on the day, led by Pepi’s 3-for-3 outing. She also finished with four RBI to rank no. 7 with 103-career RBI on the program’s all-time list. Pepi, who was stuck at 99 RBI for the past few weeks, finally broke into the 100-RBI club; the seventh Miner to accomplish the feat. She also finished as the team leader in 2017 with 36 RBI.

“[Kiki] had a great weekend,” Echo-Hawk said. “We worked a little bit on scoring runners this week in practice and changing our mentality. She executed that plan and looked for the pitches we asked her to. To end her career on a RBI was pretty awesome.”

Clayton recorded her seventh double of the season in the fifth, while it was her 38th-career double to rank tied no. 4 with Stacie Townsend. Clayton will enter her senior campaign with 180 hits (ranked fifth) and 101 runs (ranked sixth). Clayton’s .349-career batting average is ranked fourth.

Ryder didn’t have a hit on the day, but did draw a pair of walks and scored run. She hit .455 this weekend and will enter her senior season ranked sixth with a .329-career average. Taylor Sargent finished her junior season with a career highs in RBI (19) and batting (.326), while leading the squad with three triples, also a career best. Sargent will enter her senior year with 650 putouts, ranking fifth on the school’s all-time list.

Smith singled and finished as the team leader in batting with a .364 average. Sophomore Lindsey Sokoloski only struck out once in 136 at bats as one of the national leaders in toughest to strikeout in 2017. She finished her second season with a .316 average. Sokoloski hit .625 (5-8) against FAU to lead the team.

“It’s always nice to know your team is going to play for these seniors to make sure they go out on a good note. It’s also good for our team for next year to end on a positive note,” Echo-Hawk said. “They showed what they’re capable of and moving into next year, we can ride that a bit.”

Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics

H-P Sports In Depth: Miners Look to Rebound on Road at Florida Atlantic

UTEP (4-12, 1-3 C-USA) will wrap up its stay in the “Sunshine State” by playing at Florida Atlantic (4-11, 0-4 C-USA) at 3 p.m. MST/5 p.m. EST Saturday.

The Miners were handed their second straight defeat in heartbreaking fashion, falling ,88-87, at FIU in triple overtime on a 35-foot buzzer beater in the longest game in program history on Thursday (1/12/17). The Owls have lost five straight and nine of their last 10 contests, including a 72-62 home setback to UTSA last time out on Thursday(1/12/17).

The Miners are in the midst of playing three straight and seven of their next nine away from home. They are 0-1 thus far in the stretch, with the gut-wrenching triple-overtime loss at FIU.  Following Saturday’s game, UTEP has a bye before playing at UTSA at 1 p.m. MST/2 p.m. CST on Jan. 21.

The Miners will then be home for WKU (free admission with “Pack The House”, 7:05 p.m. MST, Jan. 26) and Marshall (2 p.m., Jan. 28) before having four straight league road games for the first time since 2006 C-USA play.

UTEP 1-3 in league play for the first time in 15 years (also 1-3 in 2001-02). That was Keitha Adam’s first year on the sidelines and it came when the Miners were members of the WAC.

Fans can listen live to Tim Hagerty (play-by-play) call on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio or by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or Owls (@FAU_WBB) on Twitter.

THIS AND THAT ON CONFERENCE USA

–  Middle Tennessee (4-0) is the only teams without a league loss.

–  Florida Atlantic (0-4) and Rice (0-4) are the lone programs without a conference victory.

–  Teams play all 13 members at least once, while facing five teams in home-and-home for 18-game slate.

–  The top 12 teams will qualify for the single-elimination tournament (March 8-11, Birmingham, Ala.-UAB) with the top four teams as seeded by regular season standings receiving a bye. The winner will gain the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

GETTING TO KNOW FLORIDA ATLANTIC : Overall: 4-11 | Home: 4-4   Road: 0-7    Neutral: 0-0

C-USA: 0-4  Home: 0-1   Road: 0-3

–  FIU is under the direction of first-year head coach Tiara Malcolm; she was an assistant coach in 2015-16 before serving as the acting head coach for the final four games of the year.

–  Sasha Cedeno (11.2) and Malia Kency (10.0) pace the team in scoring.

–  Cedeno is hitting 36.0 percent (seventh C-USA/120th nation) from three-point range; she makes 2.1 triples/game for the year (fifth C-USA/139th nation).

–  Got off to 3-2 start on the season but is 1-9 since, including losing five straight.

–  Solid 4-4 on the year at home; has been hindered by 0-7 road mark.

–  The team’s 40.5 rebounds/game is fifth in C-USA/96th nationally.

–  FAU nails 6.6 three pointers/game (sixth C-USA/105th nationally).

–  Owls are last in C-USA and among the worst statistically nationally in scoring defense (72.-5-313th), turnovers/game (20.1-319th), free throws made (136-329th) and attempted (208-323rd),  turnover margin (-5.80- 334th) and steals/game (4.9-343rd).

–  Notable alumni include Don Brewer (drummer & founding member of the band Grand Funk Railroad), Fern “Peachy” Kellymeyer (1999 Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee) and Carrot Top (Prop Comedian with Vegas Show)

LAST MEETING WITH FAU (at UTEP 70, FIU 52, 2/12/16)

–  UTEP turned up the defensive pressure by holding Florida Atlantic to 31.5 percent shooting and forcing 23 turnovers on the way to a convincing 75-47 wire-to-wire victory on Feb. 13.

–  UTEP pounced on the Owls early, tallying 12 of the game’s first 14 points to secure a double-digit cushion less than four minutes in. After FAU cut it to three early in the second quarter, UTEP used a 15-2 run to regain control. The Miners scored the first 16 points of the third quarter to put things out of reach.

–  The Orange and Blue converted the Owls’ 23 giveaways into 33 points while also controlling the boards (46-36). Another big factor was UTEP’s defense of the three-point shot. FAU, which entered the game fifth nationally for three pointers/game, managed to make just 4-23 (17.4 percent) from distance.

Miners still searching for first CUSA win as Leftwich returns at QB

For a UTEP football team that won seven games and had a bowl appearance last season, the goal of repeating that feat remains the same in spite of their current 2-4 record. If the Miners are to duplicate that result, they will have to get back to winning starting this Saturday against Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

While the Miners used the bye week to heal some of the injuries that have plagued them, getting back to basics was a point of emphasis for head coach Sean Kugler.

“We worked a lot on fundamentals, we also worked on the things that we didn’t do well on the first part of the season. We had to look in the mirror and not just sweep things under the rug,” Kugler said. “We also used it to get healthy and at this point of the season, with the team that we had, that was just as essential as anything.”

Miners at Aggies-142Returning as starting quarterback is Mack Leftwich, who missed the past three-and-a-half games with a concussion injury. Kugler mentioned that Leftwich had passed all concussion protocol tests and should be ready from both a physical and mental aspect.

Leftwich feels confident the time off won’t hurt the chemistry he had with his receivers and returns with the same goals he had at the beginning of the season–make a bowl game.

“It’s very important [to win]…we’re trying to get to a bowl game and get back to winning really, losing’s no fun, any game is important to get a win,” Leftwich said. “I just have to come back in and do my job the best I can, I’m out there to operate and make sure I’m getting the ball to the right people, so I just have to focus on doing my job.”

Linebacker Alvin Jones is one of several players that benefited from the bye week , helping him to recover from injuries. Jones will lead a UTEP defenseMiners at Aggies-415 that is likely to see FAU play two quarterbacks throughout the game in Jaquez Johnson and Jason Driskel.

“I would say the offense is more expanded with the big dude and the freshman is smaller, but he always looks to the sideline for checks,” Jones said. “32 is a three-year starter, so they do a lot more with him, but we’ve prepared for both of them.”

A win for the Miners would not only be the first conference win of the season, but the team’s first since they last beat FCS’ Incarnate Word on Sept. 26.

FAU is also in search of its first win since that day but, unlike UTEP, their lone win was a conference victory over Charlotte. This marks the first ever meeting between both programs, who find themselves in similar situations looking up at the rest of ConferenceUSA.

The matchup pits two teams that are struggling to stop opponents from racking up  yardage and are allowing over 30 points per game; FAU giving up an average of 31.8 points and UTEP 43. The Miners’ focus will turn to establishing their run offense while minimizing FAU’s ground game.

“We have to stop the run, number one we have to get those guys in third and long situations and try and pressure the quarterback, try and force him to make errand throws,” Kugler said. “We need to get turnovers on defense and not turn the ball over on offense and establish an efficient run game. That’s the M.O. of our offense and that’s what we have to get back to and we’re excited to get an opportunity this weekend to do that.”

With a 2-4 mark, Kugler expects the leaders on his team to help carry the load for the second half of the season.

“You want your team to be resilient and – I think – we have fighters on this team, I think we have good kids on this team that work hard,” Kugler said. “Resilient people fight back, non-resilient people don’t. I’m looking to see the senior leadership and see the fight and resiliency of this team and I’m looking forward to it.”

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