After posting a 5-0 weekend, the UTEP softball team will take its five-game winning streak across the Pacific to play six contests at the Texaco Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament.
The Miners (9-7) will open with no. 15 Cal (15-1) at 4 p.m. MT and Longwood (6-4) at 6:30 p.m. MT on March 1. The weekend will continue with games against [RV] James Madison (9-2) on March 2 (4:30 p.m. MT), East Carolina (6-9) on March 4 (2:30 p.m. MT) and host school Hawai’i (6-6) a pair of times on March 3 (8 p.m. MT) and March 4 (5 p.m. MT).
UTEP won all five of its games in the UTEP Tournament this past weekend. The Miners outscored their opponents 47-11, while hitting .429 in the process. The team ran out nine doubles, four triples and knocked out four home runs. The pitching staff posted a 2.17 ERA and combined for 27 K’s in 29.0 innings of work, while only walking 12 batters all weekend.
“[Going 5-0 this past weekend] as a lot of momentum [heading to Hawai’i], we need to be in a good place going against the competition that we’re going to see – there’s a lot of great teams competing there this weekend,” fifth-year UTEP head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “The more confident we can be going into that tournament, the better we’re going to fare.”
Conference USA Player of the Week (Feb. 26) Pamala Baber cleaned up in the batter’s box during the 5-0 weekend, as she hit an astronomical .692 (9-for-13) with a 1.154 slugging percentage. Baber also recorded 10 RBI, three doubles, scored seven runs and connected on her second home run of 2018.
Kaitlin Ryder hit .563, Courtney Clayton (.538) recorded six RBI, while both Clayton and Ryder each crossed the dish eight times. In the circle, Kira McKechnie posted a 3-0 record, Julia Wright went 2-0 while picking up her second save of the season and Devyn Cretz earned her first save of the season.
The Miners are making the Hawai’i for the first time since 2015. UTEP’s next home games are March 17-18 against UAB to open C-USA home action. Prior, the Miners will play in the FAU Parents’ Weekend Tournament March 10-11 before opening C-USA play against Florida Atlantic on March 12-13 in Boca Raton.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. CAL
The March 1 contest will be the first time the two schools will meet.
SCOUTING NO. 15 CAL
The Golden Bears are off to a hot start with a 15-1 record after defeating Long Beach State, 6-5 on Feb. 25, while ranking no. 15 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll. Cal’s only loss came against Texas A&M, 5-1 on Feb. 23. Cal is hitting .333, ranking tied 20th in nationally and fifth in the Pac-12. Cal has outscored its opponents 96-22. Mikayla Coelho leads Cal with a .415 batting average, while also leading her squad in home runs (three) and RBI (15). Brandie Fillmore (.302) has tallied a pair of dingers and 14 RBI, while Lindsay Rood (.385) has recorded 10 RBI. The pitching staff has been dominating, ranking 17th in the country in ERA (1.24). Zoe Conley (8-1) leads the Bears in wins, innings pitched (59.0), K’s (66), appearances (eight) and saves (three). Conley’s three saves lead Pac-12 and ranks fourth nationally. The other ace is Kamalani Dung (7-0) and her undefeated record. Dung was tossed 43.0 frames with 50 strikeouts. The two hurlers have combined for seven shutouts.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. LONGWOOD
The March 1 contest will be the first time the two schools will meet.
The Lancers are off to a 6-4 start after falling to Maine, 6-4, on Feb. 25. Longwood went 2-3 at the Seahawk Softball Classic in Wilmington, N.C. The Lancers posted wins against UNCW, 3-1 and Bucknell, 3-0, at the Classic. Jessica Smith (13-32) and Kaylynn Batten (13-32) are hitting .406 to lead the way, while Batten leads the team with nine RBI. The Lancers have only hit two home runs, one by Batten and the other by Karleigh Donovan (.185). The team ERA is 2.06, while Sydney Backstrom (3-2) leads the staff with a 1.25 ERA. Syndey Gay leads the staff in innings pitched (30.1), while recording a 3-2 mark and 2.31 ERA.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. JAMES MADISON
The Dukes edged the Miners, 3-0, in their only meeting on March 6, 2016 in Tucson, Ariz. The Miners were only able to connect on two hits (both by Courtney Clayton), as the JMU pitchers dominated UTEP’s bats. The Dukes scored two runs in the top first and another in the fifth.
SCOUTING [RV] JAMES MADISON
The Dukes are receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll with their 9-2 start to 2018. James Madison defeated Western Carolina, 2-0, on Feb. 25 for its sixth win in a row. The Dukes beat Penn State (4-1), Jacksonville (5-2), UCF (3-2), Campbell (8-7) and Morehead State (8-0 ) during the streak. The pitching staff is what the Dukes live off as they are hitting .257. The staff ERA is 1.60, which ranks 31st nationally and first in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Payton Buresch (4-1) leads that staff in ERA (1.21), while Odicci Alexander (5-1) leads in wins, innings pitched (43.1) and K’s (53), while posting a 1.94 ERA. Morgan Tolle leads the way with a .432 batting average (16-37) and leads the team in hits. Alexander leads the offense with 11 RBI.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. EAST CAROLINA
The Pirates own a 23-5 overall mark against the Miners. East Carolina was an affiliate with Conference USA from 2001-2014. The Miners, however, did win their last contest at East Carolina, 4-1, to conclude the 2014 regular season on May 4, 2014, while it was also the Pirates last ever C-USA regular season game.
SCOUTING EAST CAROLINA
The Pirates fell to 6-9 after losing their sixth consecutive game. ECU fell, 7-2, to Saint Francis in a pair of contest by the same score, Canisius (4-3 ), Ball State twice (4-1 & 7-2), and UMBC (6-5). The last win came against Towson, 4-3, on Feb. 18. The team is hitting .221 and has posted a 2.97 ERA. Tate McClellan is hitting .311, while also leading ECU with seven RBI and Meredith Burroughs (.139) leads with two home runs. Erin Poepping (3-3) leads the staff in innings pitched (50.2, ERA (2.76) and K’s (27).
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. HAWAI’I
The Rainbow Wahine are 10-0 against the Miners. The two programs met twice in 2015 on the island, as UH took the first game, 3-2, on Feb. 20, and won the second contest, 9-2, two days later. UTEP took a 2-1 lead into the bottom seventh, but UH took advantage of Miner mishaps and scored a pair of runs for the walk-off victory.
The Rainbow Wahine improved to 6-6 after their 6-3 triumph against Weber State on Feb. 24. Hawai’i had lost its previous four contests (Feb. 22-23). UH started the season in Las Vegas, losing its first two games against BYU and Seattle, but wining its next five. Hawai’i is hitting .263 with seven home run and has outscored its opponents 50-41. Nicole Lopez leads the way with a .410 batting average (16-39), while Callee Heen leads the team in home runs (three) and RBI (12). The pitching staff has fashioned a 3.32 ERA. Brittany Hitchcock (3-3) has a 2.97 ERA, while Dana Thomsen (3-3) leads the staff in innings (42.0) and K’s (39).
Junior Mariah Ellis played at Longwood during her freshman collegiate season (2016). Ellis played 26 games and made 10 starts, while also making a start in the NCAA Tournament against Princeton. Ellis’s first two collegiate hits were home runs, as she hit .267 with nine RBI, five runs scored, a triple and a double.
The Miners are one of three Conference USA teams hitting over .300 on the season as they rank second with a .333 batting average. WKU leads the way with a .349 average. UTEP’s 90 runs scored ranks second behind WKU (112 runs), while its hits (139) are tied with WKU for most in C-USA. UTEP’s 17 doubles are tied third with Middle Tennessee, while the Miners’ six triples rank second behind WKU (seven). UTEP also ranks second in home runs (14), RBI (84), slugging (.504) and on-base percentage (.392).
UTEP ranks t-20th nationally with its .333 batting average, 28th in double plays turned per game (.56), 47th in home runs per game (.88), 46th in scoring (5.63), 24th in slugging (.504) and 31st in triples per game (.38).
C-USA SINGLE-GAME HIGHS
UTEP’s 16 RBI versus Portland State on Feb. 24 ranks most during a single game at this of the season, while its 17 runs against PSU is tied second most with WKU (at Youngstown State). UTEP’s two triples against Portland State on Feb. 24 also ranks tied first. The Miners’ three home runs hit against Saint Mary’s College on Feb. 10 ranks tied first.
UTEP turned two more double plays this past weekend, the first against Idaho State on Feb. 23. It was a huge double play as it ended a bases loaded threat from the Bengals to end the top fifth. The play was a 3-2-4 (Kacey Duffield to Kaitlin Ryder to Courtney Clayton). The second came against Idaho State on Feb. 24, a lineout to Kira McKechnie in which she threw out the runner to Clayton at first base. UTEP leads Conference US with its nine double plays turned, and ranks 28th nationally with its double plays turned per game (.56).
MORE AGGRESSIVE BASE RUNNING
UTEP has snagged 14 bases in 15 attempts thus far in 2018. The Miners rank ninth in Conference USA, but they are only five steals from matching last season’s total of 19. UTEP only stole nine in 2016.
The Miners are 9-7 after the first 16 games of 2018, their first winning record since 2011’s first 16 contests (9-7). UTEP has won five consecutive games, the first five-game winning streak since 2016 (March 25-April 2). It is also the first five-game winning streak in non-conference action since winning five in row in 2011 (Feb. 25-27). UTEP’s 8-1 record in its last nine games is the best stretch since going 7-2 in 2016 (March 19-April 2). UTEP’s five-game winning streak is also the current longest as of Feb. 27.
UTEP’s 17 runs scored against Portland State on Feb. 24 is the most during the Tobin Echo-Hawk era. It surpasses the 16 scored against Mount St. Mary’s on March 5, 2016.
WELL, THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG
UTEP took care of business quick against Idaho State, 9-0, during a 5.0-inninig run rule victory on Feb. 24. The game lasted only an hour and 10 minutes, the shortest UTEP victory in program history.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Pamala Baber was named the Conference USA Player of the Week on Feb. 26 after posting big numbers during a 5-1 week. The Rialto, Calif., native registered a career high with four RBI on a 2-for-2 performance against Idaho State on Feb. 24. Her base-clearing double during the third inning against the Bengals blew the game open as UTEP won 9-0. Baber followed with a career best in hits on a 3-for-4 outing against Portland State to close out the weekend. Baber blasted a two-run bomb over left to put the Miners ahead 8-4 after being down 4-1 early in the contest. For the week, Baber fashioned a 1.000 slugging percentage with a .632 on-base percentage. Baber hit .647 (11-for-17) with eight runs scored, three doubles, a home run, walk, a sac-fly, sac-bunt and only struck out once in five starts in right field. She added four putouts during high winds at Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
Pamala Baber ranks third in Conference USA and leads the Miners in hitting (.462), while also pacing the team in slugging (.692) and on-base percentage (.532), and is ranked tied first in doubles (three) and RBI (13). Baber has scored 14 runs – the second most on the team, while her 18 hits are ranked third on the squad. Baber ranks tied ninth in C-USA with 18 hits, ranks tied sixth in RBI (13) and ranks in top 10 in slugging and on-base percentage.
Kaitlin Ryder blasted a three-run go-ahead home run in the fourth inning against Portland State on Feb. 25 after the Miners were down 4-1. Ryder produced solid numbers during UTEP’s 5-0 weekend. The senior utility hit .563 with the home run and four RBI, while scoring eight runs and digging out a triple. Ryder ranks second on the team with a .408 batting average, while leading the team with 20 hits. Ryder ranks tied first on the squad with 13 RBI and has connected on a pair of home runs.
KAITLIN’S BEEN CLUTCH
Kaitlin Ryder is hitting .643 (9-for-14) with runners in scoring position. She’s tallied two home runs and 13 RBI in the process. She’s been even better with runners in scoring position with two outs, as Ryder is hitting .750 (3-for-4) with six RBI and a home run.
BEHIND THE DISH
Senior Kaitlin Ryder, who started the season starting in center field, has started behind the dish the last 10 games. Ryder has thrown five base stealers out and has tallied a pickoff during the span (Feb. 16-25). UTEP is 8-2 when she’s behind the plate, as Ryder has recorded 55 putouts with 11 assists and no errors.
COURT’S IN SESSION
Senior Courtney Clayton put up big numbers at the UTEP Tournament. Clayton hit .538 (7-13) with eight runs scored, two doubles, a triple, her second home run of the season and six RBI. She also drew two walks, was hit twice by a pitch and did not strikeout in 13 at bats. She also registered 10 putouts, eight assists and zero errors. Clayton leads the team with two triples and 17 runs scored. She’s hitting .388 (third on team) with two long balls, three doubles (tied first on team) and 10 RBI.
THE WRIGHT STUFF
Junior transfer Julia Wright won her first Division I softball games this past weekend. Wright earned her first win against Idaho State on Feb. 23 as she tossed 4.0 frames with four K’s and only one walk. Wright followed with another victory, this time against Portland State on Feb. 24 as she hurled 3.0 frames during the 17-4 victory. Wright posted a career-high seven strike outs during the victory. She also earned her second save of 2018, coming into relief against Portland State on Feb. 25. Wright threw 2.0 frames, struck out a trio and walked none against the Vikings on the last day of the UTEP Tournament. Wright, during her last 15.0 innings, has tallied 23 K’s and has only walked four, while fashioning a 2.33 ERA. Overall, during her first season with the Orange and Blue, Wright leads the staff in innings pitched (36.2), ERA (4.01), saves (two) and strikeouts (35). Wright also leads Conference USA in saves and ranks sixth in with her 35 strikeouts.
Julia Wright has registered a pair of saves during the young season, leading Conference USA and ranking tied eighth nationally.
MCKECHNIE SHINING IN HER FIRST SEASON
Junior transfer Kira McKechnie, after throwing a total of 1.2 innings at Fresno State, leads the UTEP pitching staff with five victories, while ranking tied third in Conference USA in the wins’ department. McKechnie has thrown 32.0 frames and has struck out 22 batters. She’s also been part of two shutout victories, the first during a 7-0 win against Saint Mary’s College on Feb. 10, while it was her first collegiate victory. McKechnie also blanked Idaho State, 9-0, on Feb. 24. She’s posted the most shutout victories since Danielle Pearson posted a pair of shutout wins in 2016.
PRODUCING HER OWN RUN SUPPORT
Kira McKechnie got an opportunity to bat during her start in the circle against Portland State on Feb. 23. McKechnie made the most of the opportunity as she connected on a 2-1 pitch and singled in two runs through the right side. It was her first collegiate hit and RBI after playing two previous years at Fresno State.
HARD-HITTING PINCH HITTER
Junior Mariah Ellis hit .556 (5-for-9) with two runs scored, a home run and seven RBI this past week. Ellis’s week started with a towering three-run home run over left center against rival NM State on Feb. 20 that put the Miners back in the ball game. Ellis followed with four consecutive games in which she tallied an RBI (Feb. 23-25). Ellis is hitting .346 overall with seven RBI. She’s also hitting .500 (4-for-8) with four RBI in pinch-hitting situations.
Junior Ariel Blair leads the Miners with her six stolen bags in 2018 and has 13 during her career. She needs four to crack the top 10 for career stolen bases and four to crack the top eight for stolen bases during a single season. Chelsea Troupe leads the all-time career list with 37 stolen bags, while Tahla Wade’s 17 in 2015 is a single-season program record.
GARCIA’S FIRST LONG BALL IN A LONG WHILE
Redshirt junior Linda Garcia cranked her first home run in almost two years when she sent a ball over center field against Portland State on Feb. 24. Garcia, who connected on a 1-0 pitch with a runner on, recorded her first long ball since May 1, 2016.
KACEY AT THE BAT
Junior transfer Kacey Duffield has started the last eight games at the designated player position, while also seeing time at first base. Duffield responded with a .385 average (5-for-13) during the last six games, while tallying three RBI. Duffield’s first hits in a UTEP uniform came at UNLV (Feb. 17) on a 2-for-3 night with a double and two runs scored. Duffield concluded the weekend with another 2-for-3 outing against Portland State Feb. 25. Duffield is hitting .280 with three runs scored, two doubles, a walk, two sac-bunts and three RBI.
HILL’S FIRST HIT
Freshman Brianna Hill connected on her first collegiate knock and RBI against Portland State on Feb. 24. Hill got a hold of a 2-1 pitch and sent it to deep right for a two-run triple. Hill started the UTEP Tournament weekend by drawing her first walk, stealing her first base and scoring her first run, which came against Portland State on Feb. 23 in a pinch-hit situation during the fifth inning. Hill would tally her third career RBI on a sac-fly to right field versus Portland State on Feb. 24, while she reached first base due to an error by the right fielder. Hill would go on to score her third run of the weekend.
Kaitlin Ryder’s career .338 batting average currently ranks sixth on the program’s career list. Ryder’s .510 slugging ranks ninth, .415 on-base ranks fourth, four triples rank tied fourth, and recently cracked the top 10, ranking ninth with 88 RBI.