LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The UTEP softball team split a pair of games on the first day of the DeMarini Desert Classic hosted by UNLVon Friday night at Eller Media Stadium. The Miners (3-4), behind Danielle Pearson’s complete game shutout, defeated UNLV (5-4), 6-0, during the second contest. Nevada rallied to defeat UTEP, 8-5, earlier in the day.
“As we progress, we’re going to learn how to win more and more games,” third-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said.
“I think in that first game, being up 5-1, we started to have that feeling of not to lose. We let things fall apart. But (the UNLV game), the team did a great job right from the beginning. We set the tone and got two runs in the first inning and they didn’t look back. I give a lot of credit to D.P. (Danielle Pearson); she pitched amazing tonight. She did a nice job keeping them off balance and her balls were moving a ton and it’s nice to get that kind of performance.”
UTEP 6, UNLV 0
Pearson needed one out to complete her first ever shutout in a UTEP uniform and she did just that. The senior from Orlando, Fla., registered her fifth K, fanning pinch hitter Emily Haslinger on a 0-2 pitch with two runners on first and second base to complete the victory. The Runnin’ Rebels really never got any offense going, as Pearson hurled 7.0 frames, allowing only three hits. Pearson also earned career win no. 20, which puts her four wins from tying Kelly Curran for no. 2 on the all-time win’s list.
Besides Pearson pitching a gem, the UTEP bats gave her all the run support she needed. The Miners recorded nine hits, as Kiki Pepi put her squad on the board early with a two-run double to deep left on a one out 2-2 pitch in the first inning. Ariel Blair walked, followed by a Kaitlin Ryder single that paved the way for Pepi’s knock.
The Miners got on the board again during the second frame, as Courtney Clayton singled in Kawehiokalani Netane, who reached base on a leadoff double. An error on the play advanced Clayton to second, while Cortney Smith, who was hit by a pitch earlier, crossed the dish for a 4-0 advantage.
Two more insurance runs were put up in the sixth when Jade Rodriguez reached base on an error with two outs. Clayton doubled in Rodriguez on a shot to deep left center. Ryder also reached on an error, in which Clayton found her way home and into the UTEP dugout.
The victory at Eller Media Stadium was the first since defeating Northwestern State, 12-4, on Feb. 14, 2008 at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic. The triumph also marked UTEP’s first ever win against UNLV, while it was UTEP’s first road win since beating East Carolina on May 4, 2014 in the season finale.
Clayton finished the night 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI and a run. Taylor Sargent went 2-for-4, while recording 11 putouts.
UTEP 5, Nevada 8
Linda Garcia connected on a towering three-run home run over left center, giving the Miners a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Nevada answered with four runs in the sixth frame and three more in the seventh.
Pepi, who hit her first home run against the Wolf Pack last season, connected on her third dinger of 2016. Pepi sent a solo blast over center on a 0-0 count, giving her squad a 1-0 advantage in the third inning. However, Megan Sweet would tie the contest with a solo shot of her own in the fourth.
With the score tied 1-1 In the fifth, freshman Lindsey Sokoloski, who made her first collegiate start as the designated player, led off with a single to left. Pepi followed with a single with one out, advancing Sokoloski to second and eventually crossing home plate on a two-out double by Sargent. Garcia would then record her second long ball of the season on a 0-1 pitch.
Kaitlin Fifield (0-3) pitched 6.1 innings, while fanning six Wolf Pack batters. Fifield didn’t allow a hit during the first three frames. Erika Harrawood finished the game, collecting a pair of Ks.
Pepi finished 3-for-3, tying her career high in hits and scored a pair of runs. She led off the seventh with a single, but two fly outs and a lineout ended the contest.
The Miners tallied 11 hits during the contest. Sargent finished 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while freshman Cortney Smith registered her first collegiate hits on a 2-for-3 performance. Netane also went 2-for-3. On the defensive side, Hope Moreno recorded a career-high 13 putouts at the first base position.
UTEP will take on Utah State (11:15 a.m. PT) at SLC Park and San Jose State (6 p.m.) at Eller Media Stadium on Saturday on day two of the classic. The Miners will be the ‘home’ team against the Spartans.