UTEP’s #8 Linda Garcia
UAB defeated UTEP 10-3 in game one and 9-6 in game two on Saturday afternoon at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
The Blazers (21-24, 11-6 Conference USA), with the victories, have gained a one-game lead on the Miners (19-27, 10-7 C-USA) in the West Division heading into tomorrow’s series finale at noon.
“Nothing went right today,” third-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “It’s the way things have been lately. Sometimes things just don’t go your way and this was one of those days. Their third baseman commits an error, but the ball hops right to the shortstop for the out at first.”
UAB seemed to put the ball in the right places, or wrong places for UTEP. The Blazers were able to reach base and score runs off short bloopers that would end up in between sprinting fielders.
A positive note, UTEP turned a pair of double plays on the afternoon, as it set a new program record with 22 double plays turned in 2016. The previous best was 21 done by the 2007 and 2015 squads.
The Miners connected on a total of four home runs, giving them 43 on the year, surpassing last season’s total of 39. It’s the most home runs since hitting 45 in 2008. Four more doubles were also grinded out, giving the team a league-leading 67 on the year.
UTEP 3, UAB 10
Courtney Clayton and Cortney Smith each connected on solo home runs, but UAB scored nine of its 10 runs during the last three innings.
After the Blazers took an early 1-0 advantage, the Miners answered in the bottom first with a Clayton RBI double to tie the contest.
Kaitlin Fifield (8-14) and Cara Goodwin (11-7) then cruised the next three innings, before the UAB offense took over. Sara Beth Williamson and Kelly Britt each tallied two RBI during a five-run fifth that put the game out of reach for the Miners.
The Blazers added three more in the sixth and one more in the seventh. Clayton connected on her seventh home run of the season in the bottom sixth, while Smith hit her third long ball of 2016 in the seventh.
Goodwin kept the Miners’ potent offense in check, as she only allowed five hits in 7.0 innings of work. Goodwin struck out eight, while only walking one.
Clayton finished the contest 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI, while Kiki Pepi and Taylor Sargent added a knock each.
UTEP 6, UAB 9
The Miners took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning, as Clayton led the game off with a single to right. Kaitlin Ryder used a sac-bunt to advance Clayton, while Pepi followed with a single. Starting hurler Danielle Pearson (6-8) put her squad on the board with a two-out, RBI double. Moreno advanced to first on a hit by pitch, and a Smith two-run single through the right side followed that for a 3-0 lead.
The Blazers answered with a Britt one-out solo home run. Pearson tallied her fourth K, striking out Hannah Lee for out no. 2. But a costly fielding miscue led to Amy Waters reaching first base. Danii Fernandez took advantage with an RBI double that scored Waters, while JoJo Fallen recorded a two-run double, giving their squad a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom second, Ryder connected on a solo home run, her first since March 13, to tie the game 4-4. It was Ryder’s fourth of the season.
Again, UAB would answer with three more runs in the third. One of those runs came off a short-blooper that dropped just left of the right foul line and in between UTEP fielders.
With the score 7-4 in the bottom third, Moreno connected on another UTEP solo home run, her fifth of the season. The Miners got within a run in the fourth with Moreno at the plate. She put the ball in play to the third baseman, as a fielding error by the fielder helped score Pepi from third base.
But that was all the offense the Miners could sustain in the second game.
Erika Harrawood replaced Pearson after two innings and held her own, keeping the score 7-6. But another short blooper, this time by Fallen, to shallow right inside the foul line went between UTEP defenders and led to two more runs for the Blazers in the seventh.
In the top home half, it looked as if Linda Garcia was going to reach first on an error by the third baseman, but the ball took a hop off the glove and to the shortstop Caitlin Attfield, who used her rocket arm from deep territory to throw out Garcia on a 5-6-3 play, aforementioned by Echo-Hawk.
Though UTEP collected 12 hits, it left nine runners on base. Pepi tied her career high in hits on a 3-for-4 contest, while Clayton, Pearson and Smith each went 2-for-4. Clayton also tallied her 17th double, while Pepi recorded double no. 12 on the season.
Harrawood threw a season-high 5.0 innings, allowed three hits and tallied a K. Pearson struck out four, including three Ks looking in a row after she walked the leadoff hitter in the first inning.