The UTEP softball team will look to extend its three-game winning streak as the Miners (4-6) host NM State (3-3) on Feb. 20 to open the 2018 home portion of the schedule.
The Miners are coming off three victories in Las Vegas, Nev., as they started with an 8-0 triumph in five frames behind a combined no-hitter against New Mexico on Saturday afternoon. The winning ways continued later in the evening when the Miners used poise to defeat UNLV, 8-7.
The Vegas weekend ended with a 7-5 win over South Dakota in which the Miners found themselves down 5-0 heading into the third inning. UTEP scored six runs in the third to take the go-ahead lead and eventual victory. The 3-2 Vegas weekend was the first winning record in the desert since 2008.
The Miners’ three-game winning streak is the longest since winning three consecutive against North Texas in 2016. UTEP (four wins) has also won a third of its total from last season’s total wins (12).
First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex in FirstLight FCU Battle of I-10. Tickets are available at the gate [$5 for adults, $3 for children], or call 747.5234.
***UTEP/NMSU In Depth
SCOUTING NM STATE
The Aggies are at an even 3-3 mark after defeating Boston University, 2-1, on Feb. 18 to end a three-game losing skid. NM State opened the 2018 campaign with a pair of big wins over no. 17/13 Kentucky, while losing the series finale, 10-2 in Las Cruces.
After a pair of cancelations against no. 1/1 Oklahoma and Boston U due to rain on Feb. 16 at the Troy Cox Classic at NM State Field, the Aggies fell to Ball State, 3-2, and OU, 2-0, on Feb. 17. NM State is hitting .311 as a team with five home runs and 28 runs scored. Fahren Glackin is pacing the Aggies with a .583 average (7-12), while tallying four RBI. Kelsey Horton (.381) and Victoria Castro (.286) have each recorded two home runs and seven RBI. The team ERA is 3.93 as Kayla Green (3-1) leads the staff in wins and inning pitched (19.1). Samaria Diaz (0-2) leads the team with 14 strike outs in 15.1 frames thrown.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. NM STATE
The Aggies own a 11-33 advantage against the Miners. UTEP defeated NM State on March 1, 2017 in Las Cruces, but fell in both contests at Helen of Troy Softball Complex (March 28). Kiki Pepi produced four RBI, Devyn Cretz struck out five batters and Erika Harrawood earned her first career save during the Miners’ 5-3 victory. During the two losses, UTEP registered a total of 21 hits.
SEVENTH NO-NO IN UTEP HISTORY
On Feb. 17, UTEP defeated New Mexico 8-0 in five innings behind a combined no-hitter. It was the first ever combined no-hitter in UTEP history as starting pitcher Devyn Cretz tossed 3.0 and Kira McKechnie threw 2.0 frames and combined for five strike outs and four walks during contest.
It was the first no-hitter since Kaitlin Fifield tossed a complete-game no-no against Texas A&M-CC on Feb. 27, 2016 in College Station. Stacie Townsend (March 18, 2010 at Belmont), Nichole Tunget (Feb. 10, 2008 at Prairie View A&M), Veronica Flournoy (March 10, 2006 vs. Centenary), Megan Barber (Feb. 22, 2005 vs. Howard Payne) and Renee Dipuccio (Feb. 15, 2004 vs. Sul Ross State) each tossed no-hitters during their respective careers.
THE WRIGHT STUFF
Junior transfer pitcher Julia Wright threw her best stuff on Feb. 18 against South Dakota. The Miners found themselves down 5-0 heading into the bottom third. UTEP scored six during that home half frame and Wright took over from there. She threw 4.0 frames, striking out a UTEP career high six Coyotes, but most importantly, didn’t walk any batters, while earned her first career save at UTEP. Wright leads the staff in innings pitched (25.2), starts (four) and K’s (18) in her first with the program.
2-0 WEEKEND FOR DEV
Sophomore Devyn Cretz produced her best weekend in her young career, winning a pair of contests during UTEP’s three game winning streak. The sophomore threw 11.0 innings and tallied six strike outs. But the big game came against New Mexico, in which she was part of a combined no-hit effort during the 8-0  win. Cretz tossed 3.0 frames and recorded three Ks during the start in the circle, while also being credited with the victory against the Lobos. Cretz threw another 3.0 innings against UNLV in a relief appearance and received her second win on Saturday. Cretz struck out a Rebel, but most importantly, didn’t walk any batters. Cretz also recorded a pair of assists, the first against Nevada and the second against New Mexico. Cretz has tossed 17.2 frames (second most on staff), while recorded 10 K’s on the season.
Freshman Ilena Santos’s solo home run against South Dakota during the bottom third inning gave the Miners an offensive spark. With the score 5-0, Santos drove a 1-1 pitch into the wind over left center to put her squad on the scoresheet. The hit led to five other hits and five more runs that gave UTEP a 6-5 lead and eventual 7-5 triumph. Santos is hitting .280 (7-25) with four runs, two home runs and three RBI. She’s started all 10 games in left, recording nine putouts and four assists and being part of two of seven double plays turned.
LEADING THE SURGE
Junior Ariel Blair got her first start of 2018 against Boise State, in which she recorded an infield single and a stolen base, while she stole a base and scored a run against Nevada. But her presence was felt during UTEP’s three-game winning streak. Blair hit .500 (5-10) at the leadoff spot with an RBI and a stolen base during the trio of contests. Her RBI came during the UNLV game in which the Miners scored two insurance runs during the 8-7 victory versus the Rebels. Blair went 2-for-3 with a run scored against New Mexico and went 2-for-4 with a run and stolen bag against South Dakota. Overall, Blair is hitting .400 (6-15) with four runs and has a team-leading three stolen bases on three steal attempts.
COURT’S IN SESSION
Senior Courtney Clayton’s bat woke up in Las Vegas as she hit .389 (7-18) after entering the weekend hitting .214. Clayton added five runs, a double, triple, first home run of 2018 and three RBI in the early part of the season. Clayton hit a solo shot against Boise State on Feb. 16 in the late, while singling against Nevada during the early game. Then Clayton came up with big numbers against New Mexico, going a perfect 3-for-3 with three runs scored. Clayton’s RBI triple at UNLV put the Miners on the board first, while she scored a run against South Dakota. Clayton is hitting .313 and leads the Miners in at bats (32) and runs scored (eight).
TRACKING CC’S NUMBERS
Senior Courtney Clayton started 2018 with 10 hits in 32 at bats, eight runs scored, home run and four RBI. She also recorded 20 putouts with 16 assists from second base in five starts. Clayton now has 109 runs, moving to fifth in program history. Clayton’s 190 hits now rank fourth and needs 10 to move up to be tied for third on the program’s all-time list. Clayton recorded three RBI over the weekend and now has 90 in her career, ranking eighth. She’s looking to be the eighth Miner to reach 100-plus RBI during a career at UTEP. Clayton now had 548 career at bats, ranking eighth on the program’s all-time list. Clayton now has 329 assists, moving up to third on the all-time list, and needing two to move to second.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
Sophomore Pamala Baber drew three walks at UNLV after striking out during her first at bat against the Rebels. The three walks drawn by Baber rank tied for sixth best in program history during the 8-7 win against UNLV. Baber is hitting .313 with a home run, three RBI and five walks (tied for team lead).
Courtney Clayton tied her career high with three runs scored against New Mexico, while Pamala Baber crossed the dish three times (the second most during her career) at UNLV. Their respective performances are tied for ninth best during a single game in program history. Baber scored four runs at New Mexico on March 8, 2017 – tied second most in team history.
Junior Cortney Smith turned in another gem this past weekend at the Marucci Desert Classic, hitting .429 (6-14) and connecting on her team-leading third home run of 2018. Smith hit a solo shot against Boise State on Friday, but then got a hold of a 1-2 pitch and sent over left field, a two-run shot, during UTEP’s 8-0  victory against New Mexico on Saturday. She added three runs and three RBI during the Vegas trip. Overall, Smith is pacing the club with a .385 batting average (10-26), while tallying four runs, a double and five walks (tied for team lead). Defensively, Smith has recorded nine putouts and 19 assists in 10 games started at third base.
WALK THIS WAY
Cortney Smith and Pamala Baber have each drawn five walks in 2018. The pair ranks in the top 20 in Conference USA.
VIVA VALLES IN VEGAS
Freshman Ariana Valles came up with clutch offense (.438 avg., four RBI & three runs scored) and defense (six putouts, 13 assists & zero errors) at the Marucci Desert Classic. After starting a combined 1-for-6 during UTEP’s first two contests in Vegas, Valles’s bat lit up when she hit a hard triple to deep right field, scoring the game-winning runs during the Miners’ 8-0  no-hit victory on Feb. 17.
Valles then produced a season-high three hits with a run scored and two RBI during the 8-7 victory at UNLV. Valles’s RBI single scored the first of three runs during the sixth inning against the Rebels, in which the Miners took a 6-5 lead after being down two runs. Defensively, Valles was smooth at short as she recorded six assists, tied for 10th best in program history.
Valles, a graduate of Chapin High School in El Paso, is hitting .391 with four RBI, four runs, a triple and double. Defensively, she leads the Miners with 23 assists, while recording 16 putouts.
Senior Kaitlin Ryder had another great weekend, hitting .444 (8-18) with a team-high six RBI in Las Vegas. Ryder added a run and two doubles, while making the start behind home plate the last four games. During that span, she threw out two runners caught stealing and recorded a pickoff.
Ryder also tied her career high with a trio of hits at UNLV during the Miners’ 8-7 win, while she also registered a two-run single during a three-run sixth against the Rebels. Against South Dakota, Ryder tallied a career-high 10 putouts. Ryder ranks second on the team with a .367 batting average, while leading the Miners in RBI (nine), doubles (two) and hits (11). She also ranks second on the team with 33 putouts.
Senior Taylor Sargent is hitting .269 on the year and has started all 10 games at first base, while also seeing time in right field. She’s recorded a team-most 60 putouts and three assists. Sargent has 710 career putouts, ranking fifth in program history. Sargent drilled her first home run of 2018, a two-run home run against Saint Mary’s College in the first inning on Feb. 10. It was her first long ball since going yard against North Texas on May 1, 2016. Sargent has added seven hits, a run and three RBI, while only striking out once in 26 at bats.
The UTEP defense turned its seventh double play, when Ariana Valles recorded an unassisted out on the runners at second and threw the batter out to first baseman Taylor Sargent at UNLV to end the sixth inning. The Miners rank first in that department in Conference USA. Overall, the last three seasons, the defense has turned 67 double plays in its last 110 games (.61 per game). UTEP’s .70 double plays turned per game ranks tied 18th nationally, while its seven turned are tied for fourth most in the nation.
Redshirt junior Linda Garcia, after missing all of 2017 due to injury, made her way back to the softball diamond in Tempe, Ariz. Garcia recorded three at bats in pinch hit situations (vs. Mizzou, no. 3 Oregon & UC Davis), while she also made an appearance behind the plate against San Jose State. Garcia also made her first start since May 11, 2016 when she got the nod at the designated player position against Boise State. Garcia tallied a putout against SJSU. Garcia’s last full season in 2016, she hit seven home runs and registered 20 RBI.
FIRST CAREER RUNS
Freshman Jordyn Quevedo and sophomore Bryanna Molina each recorded a run during clutch victories at the Marucci Desert Classic. Quevedo made the most of her opportunity when she was inserted as pinch runner in the sixth inning at UNLV, while she also stole her first career base to set up her run scored during a three-run sixth. Molina finally crossed the dish for the first time in her career during a pinch-hit opportunity against South Dakota. Molina reached on a fielder’s choice with bases loaded during UTEP’s six-run third.
The UTEP offense picked up in Las Vegas, as the Miners connected on five more home runs after hitting four dingers at the Kajikawa Classic. The Miners have blasted nine dingers, ranking tied with UTSA for second most in Conference USA. WKU leads with 11 home runs. Cortney Smith leads the Miners with three long balls, Ilena Santos has two, while Kaitlin Ryder, Pamala Baber, Courtney Clayton and Taylor Sargent have each went yard.