Miners Head to Hattiesburg to Face C-USA West Foe Southern Miss

The UTEP softball team will hit the road to Hattiesburg to take on Southern Miss in a three-game set March 24-25.

The Miners (11-18, 1-5 Conference USA) will look to build on their 16-13 victory over UAB, while the Golden Eagles (11-20, 1-5 C-USA) are coming off a sweep at Marshall. The weekend series is key for both programs as UTEP and Southern Miss both sit on the bottom of the C-USA West standings.

Saturday’s doubleheader is slated to start at noon MT/1 CT, while Sunday’s series finale is set for a noon MT first pitch start.

The Miners are coming off a 16-13 victory on March 18 in which the Miners pounded out 14 hits, including home runs hit by Kacey Duffield (a two-run shot in the first inning) and Linda Garcia (a solo shot in the third inning).

Sunday’s triumph also stopped a seven-game losing streak, while it was the most runs scored in a C-USA game during the Tobin Echo-Hawk era. UTEP’s 14 hits were also the second most connected on during the season. The victory against UAB was also the first since 2012.

Courtney Clayton’s bat has been consistent as she hit .600 (6-10) during the weekend, while scoring two runs and tallying a pair of RBI and two doubles. Kaitlin Ryder hit .500 (3-6) during the weekend series, while she crossed the dish a career-high four times on Sunday.

Garcia and Ariana Valles each went 3-for-8 (.375 avg.) during the weekend, while Valles recorded a pair of RBI and Garcia registered three RBI during Sunday’s victory against the Blazers.

Though the Blazers crossed home plate more than the Miners wanted, a pair of pitchers made an impact on Sunday as sophomore Allie Johnson earned her first collegiate victory and junior transfer Julia Wright posted her C-USA-leading third save.

Florida Atlantic leads the overall standings with a 5-1 Conference USA mark after taking two of three contests at Charlotte. Marshall ranks second in C-USA East with a 4-1 record, while Middle Tennessee, WKU and Charlotte each post 3-3 marks. FIU is 2-4. LA Tech paces C-USA West with a 4-2 record, while UAB (3-2-1-) sits in second. UTSA and North Texas each sport .500 league marks at 3-3, while UTEP and Southern Miss each have one league win.

The Miners are 16-19-1 all-time versus the Golden Eagles. USM won the three-game series last season in El Paso. The Miners won game one, 12-2 [5], but the Golden Eagles rebounded to win the next two contests, 6-2, 6-1. UTEP won the 2015 series winning games one (7-5) and three (10-4) at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.

During last year’s March 25 victory, Kaitlin Ryder went 3-for-3 with a career-high five RBI, while Mallorie Cross tallied two RBI and scored a pair of runs. Courtney Clayton went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. UTEP lost all three contests in Hattiesburg during the March 7-8 series during the 2016 season, while the Miners’ last victory in Hattiesburg was a 10-4 win on March 23, 2013.

Southern Miss is coming off a loss after Marshall swept the March 17-18 series 3-0. The Golden Eagles dropped to 11-20 overall and 1-5 in Conference USA play. The Black and Gold are hitting .267, placing seventh in conference USA play. Leading the team in hitting is freshman Destini Brown with .390 (32-82) ranking sixth in the league, she also leads the team in hits with 32.

The player with most home runs for the Black and Gold is junior Samantha Papp with four, ranking tied for fifth in the league. Team’s ERA is 4.17, which is placed 11th in C-USA. Top pitcher for the Golden Eagles is senior transfer Kim Crowson (5-6) with a 3.54 ERA, 61.1 innings played and 28 strikeouts. Redshirt senior Samantha Robles has had 55 strike outs in 90.1 innings played, ranking ninth in conference. On the field freshman Alyssa Davis is at top of the league with 88 assists.

UTEP scored 16 runs against UAB on March 18, the most runs in a Conference USA game during the Tobin Echo-Hawk era and most in a conference matchup since putting up 16 against Southern Miss on March 26, 2006. The most runs scored in a single game during Echo-Hawk’s time at UTEP is 17 against Portland State earlier this season (Feb. 24).

The Miners totaled 16 runs against Mount St. Mary’s on March 5, 2016. The most runs scored in a league game in program history is 17 against Houston on April 6, 2007.

The UTEP defense turned another double play this past weekend against UAB, its 13th in the third game of the series. The Miners are averaging .45 double plays per game, leading Conference USA in double plays turned (13) and DP’s per game (.45). Nationally, UTEP ranks tied for 29th with UT Martin in double plays per game (.45), while its tied for 15th with six other programs with 13 double plays turned. During the last three seasons, the Miners have turned 73 double plays in 131 games (.56 per game).

The Miners hit a pair of home runs during the UAB series, giving them 19 on the season. UTEP is tied with UTSA, while North Texas is pacing the league with 34 and WKU ranks a distant second with 20 dingers. Courtney Clayton leads the team with four home runs, while ranking tied for seventh in Conference USA. UTSA’s Bailee Baldwin leads conference with 12 home runs.

UTEP ranks third in Conference USA with a .282 batting average, behind Middle Tennessee (.325), WKU (.294). UTEP’s 118 runs rank sixth behind UAB (119). WKU leads the league with 160 runs scored. UTEP’s 211 hits rank sixth behind FIU (213). Middle Tennessee leads C-USA with 248 knocks. UTEP (35 doubles) ranks tied for fifth in doubles, while ranking tied for second with six triples. The Miners’ .421 slugging percentage ranks fourth.

Courtney Clayton recorded an RBI in the second inning, giving the senior 100 in her career. Clayton became the eighth Miner to reach the 100-RBI mark. Camilla Carrera (197 RBI) leads the all-time list. Chelsea Troupe (138), Stacie Townsend (124), Simone Holland (113), Amber Bennett (109), Ashley Ellis (105) and Kiki Pepi (103) round out the list.

Courtney Clayton registered two more multi-hit games, the first was a 4-for-4 effort against UAB on March 17 and the second was a 2-for-4 outing on Sunday against the Blazers. Clayton now ranks second all-time with 64 career multi-hit games, passing Chelsea Troupe (63). Camilla Carrera leads the all-time list with 74 multi-hit games.

After a slow start to the 2018 season, Courtney Clayton ranks fourth in Conference USA with a .398 batting average. Clayton is also pacing the Miners with four home runs (t-seventh in C-USA), 35 hits, seven doubles and a pair of triples. Clayton’s 35 hits rank fourth in C-USA, while ranking in the top 10 in doubles.

Clayton hit .214 the first five games of 2018. Since Feb. 16 versus Nevada, Clayton is hitting .432 (32-74) with four home runs and 13 RBI. She’s produced nine multi-hit game during that span (Feb. 16-March 18), which includes a 4-for-4 outing against UAB on March 17, tying her career high in hits. Clayton is also hitting an astronomical .471 in six C-USA only games.

Courtney Clayton has only struck out once in 88 at bats this season. Clayton leads Conference USA in toughest to strikeout. Morgan Harris of Middle Tennessee has struck out three times in 84 at bats. Nationally, Clayton ranks tied for sixth in toughest to strikeout. UNI’s Brittney Roby has also struck out once in 88 at bats.

Allie Johnson won her first collegiate contest on March 18 against UAB at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. The sophomore’s career got off to a slow start, but has shown dramatic improvement in the circle the last few weeks of the season. Johnson threw 2.1 innings, allowed two hits and two runs, but recorded key outs to help the Miners to a victory.

Allie Johnson, entering the March 15 contest against no. 15 Cal in Hawai’i, had posted a 21.00 ERA as her only action came against no. 3 Oregon. Johnson made strides and gained confidence against Cal as she threw a career-high 5.0 scoreless innings, allowed two hits and tallied a career-best three K’s. Johnson has posted a 2.69 ERA with six strikeouts in her last 13.0 innings (six appearances). Overall in 2018, Johnson has a 4.00 ERA in 14.0 innings during seven appearances. Opponents are hitting .152 versus Johnson this season, the lowest batting average allowed by a UTEP pitcher.

Julia Wright earned her Conference USA leading third save of the season after posting another one on March 18 against UAB. Wright threw an inning, allowing no baserunners to secure UTEP’s victory. Wright ranks tied for 12th nationally with 18 other players.

Taylor Bauman of FGCU leads the nation with 13 saves, while three student-athletes have posted five saves and seven others have recorded four saves. Wright’s first save came against South Dakota (Feb. 18), as she threw 4.0 frames to help UTEP rally to win, 7-5. Wright struck out six during that game versus USD. Her second save came against Portland State during a 2.0-inning effort in which Wright K’ed a trio of batters with zero walks.

Overall, Wright was won a pair of games, while tossing 60.1 innings (second most on staff) and leading the staff with 49 K’s (ranked 11th in C-USA).

Linda Garcia, after missing all of 2017 due to an injury, came up with some big hits during the weekend series against UAB. The redshirt junior recorded a two-run double against the Blazers in game two, while coming up with a big game in the third contest of the series.

Garcia went 2-for-4 with three RBI off a solo home run (third inning) and a two-run double (fourth) to help lead UTEP past UAB, 16-13, in a slugfest. In fact, all four of Garcia’s hits in 2018 have scored runs. Garcia hit a two-run home run against Portland State on Feb. 24, her first dinger in almost two years, while all three hits against UAB resulted in RBI’s.

Mariah Ellis has been UTEP’s best pinch hitter in 2018. The junior connected on a three-run, bases-clearing double during the fifth inning against UAB to put UTEP up 16-11 on March 18. Ellis is 6-for-17 (.353) in pinch-hitting situations, while tallying seven RBI and a double in the process. Ellis also posted four RBI in four pinch-hit at bats at the UTEP Tournament.

Overall, Ellis is hitting .262 with a home run, 10 RBI, two runs and two doubles. She’s also made 10 starts in 28 games played (two starts in the outfield, eight as the designated player).

Kaitlin Ryder produced a 3-for-4 outing with a career-high four runs scored against UAB. Prior to her big game, Ryder hit .147 from March 1-March 17. Ryder, however, is ranked third on the team with a .322 batting average, while producing 13 RBI and scoring 15 runs. Ryder ranks second in Conference USA, throwing out nine base stealers.

Kaitlin Ryder scored a career-high four runs against UAB on March 18 during UTEP’s 16-13 victory. Ryder joins five other Miners and is tied for second most runs scored during a single game in program history. The last Miner to do so was Ryder’s teammate Pamala Baber who crossed the dish four times last season at New Mexico.

Chelsea Troupe scored four runs in two separate games in 2012 and Kelly Lombard did so twice in 2007. Simone Holland and Amber Bennett each scored four runs in single game during the 2007 season. Kayla Oranger holds to school record with five runs scored at Brown on March 3, 2012.

Taylor Sargent crossed home plate three times against UAB on March 18, tying her career high. Sargent is one of three Miners to score three runs in a single game in 2018. It’s Courtney Clayton’s career high as the senior actually did it twice this season, the first against New Mexico and the second time versus Portland State on Feb. 24.

Pamala Baber scored three runs against UNLV, the second most during her career. The three runs scored in a single game is ranked tied for 10th on the program’s all-time single-game list. The most scored in one contest is five (Kayla Oranger in 2012), while the second most is four runs done eight times.

UTEP leads Conference USA with 15 runners caught stealing. Kaitlin Ryder ranks second in the individual category with nine CSB’s. Mallorie Cross has tallied four CSB’s, while Linda Garcia has recorded two CSB’s.

A pair of freshmen made their first career starts versus UAB during Saturday’s game two contest as Brianna Hill got the nod at third base and Jordyn Quevedo made a start in left field. Hill has played in a total of 14 games, tallying four runs, a triple and three RBI, while Quevedo has scored four runs and stole a base.

Kacey Duffield hit her second home run of the season, a two-run blast during the first inning in UTEP’s 16-13 victory against UAB on March 18. Duffield’s home run was one of 14 hits produced by the Miners and helped surged the offense to an explosive performance. Duffield is hitting .267 (16-60) with eight RBI and seven runs scored in 26 games (21 starts).

It took some at bats for Duffield to get into the swing of things as she’s hitting .292 since Feb. 20 against NM State. Duffield’s average was .167 prior to the contest versus the Aggies.

Ariana Valles has made a great impression during her first season as a Miner. The El Paso product has started all 29 games at the short stop position, leading the team with 55 assists (ranks ninth in Conference USA). Valles’s bat has also been solid as she’s hitting .299 (20-67) with 11 RBI to lead all UTEP freshman.

Valles also ranks second on the team with six doubles, has recorded a triple and has scored eight runs. Valles came up big at UNLV when she recorded a career high in hits on a 3-for-4 outing with two RBI and a run scored. Valles is tied for most multi-RBI games (four) on the team. In fact, the Miners are 4-0 when she produces two RBI (vs. New Mexico, vs. Portland State [Feb. 24] and vs. UAB [March 18]).