File: Kiki Pepi tied her career high with five RBI to help take down Wichita State
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Kiki Pepi produced four RBI on a pair of hits, Devyn Cretz struck out five batters and Erika Harrawood earned her first career save as UTEP took down NM State, 5-3, on Wednesday night at the NM State Softball Complex.
The Miners (3-11) earned their first victory against the Aggies (4-10) in Las Cruces since winning 22-5 (5) on Feb. 15, 2010. It’s also the third overall win down the road during the rivalry. UTEP ended a seven-game losing streak to NM State as the Miners last defeated the Aggies March 14, 2014, a 5-1 win in El Paso.
“I can’t think of a better win that we’ve had so far,” fourth-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “(NM State) has had our number for the last couple years and to beat a good team like them on their field, it’s just a special moment for all our kids.”
With UTEP up 5-0, NM State cut the lead to 5-3 in the sixth inning on a pair of home runs – a solo shot by Kennedy Johnson and a two-run home run by Victoria Castro. Harrawood was inserted after the Aggies cut the lead to two runs and threw a solid 1.2 innings, while striking out Johnson to secure the victory.
“(Harrawood) came in and sometimes it’s hard to come in when it’s a close game and the other team in inching back in,” Echo-Hawk said. “But she did a great job shutting the door on them and really pitched steady during those two innings to get outs for us. She’s grown the past few months and it’s really fun to watch her.”
The Miners took a 1-0 advantage in the fourth inning when Hope Moreno was inserted as a pinch hitter for Ariel Blair with bases loaded. Moreno drew her fourth hit by pitch of the season to earn an RBI the hard way. She’s now been hit 22 times in her career to ranks fourth on the school’s all-time list.
In the fifth, Pepi exploded on a line drive two-run home run on a 1-0 pitch over left field, giving the Miners a 3-0 lead. Cortney Smith was on base as she drilled a double down the left field line previously.
“That home run was a shot,” Echo-hawk said. “With (Pepi) being a senior, being one of the last times that she gets to play them and knowing that we’ve struggled against (NM State), I think it was a big moment for her overall. It was gratifying.”
Pepi came up big again in the sixth with a hard liner up the middle that plated Blair and Courtney Clayton. Blair had reached on a fielder’s choice, while Clayton used her second hit of the game to reach first. Blair and Clayton would end up advancing on a wild pitch.
Clayton recorded her fifth multi-hit game of the season and 47th during her career.
Cretz (2-3) won her second career game after she hurled 5.1 innings. Mallorie Cross notched her second multi-hit game (2-for-4), while Kaitlin Ryder registered her second multi-hit game (2-for-3) this season since connecting on two knocks Feb. 24 against Utah State.
UTEP didn’t commit any errors, its fifth game without any miscues.
“Everything we talked about with (our players) on what to expect from (NM State) and their offense, our defense did a good job adjusting to their hitters and making sure that we were getting outs and not making it anything bigger than what it was,” Echo-Hawk said.
The Miners’ 11 hits were the second most this season after tallying 12 knocks against UC Riverside on Feb. 25.
UTEP will travel to Lubbock to compete at the Jeannine McHaney Memorial Classic hosted by Texas TechMarch 3-5. The Miners will open against the Red Raiders (8-7) on Friday and will then take on Wichita State (9-3) on Saturday, followed by another contest against Texas Tech. The weekend will conclude against Wichita State.