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UTEP to Host League Foe LA Tech, SEC’s No. 15 Missouri

The UTEP softball team play five games in three day, as it will resume Conference USA action on March 19 and 20 against LA Tech, following with a two-game set against No. 15 Missouri at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex onMarch 21.

The Miners (9-18, 0-3 C-USA) and Lady Techsters (16-6, 0-0 C-USA) will play a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.The series finale will be played on Sunday at noon. The Orange and Blue will then play the Tigers (17-4) in a two-game series on Monday starting at noon.

LA Tech makes its return to the Sun City for only the second time in series history and the first since April 10, 2004. The Ladytechsters are opening Conference USA play this weekend.

All-Time Series vs. LA Tech

LA Tech holds a 7-6 edge on UTEP since the two programs started play against each other on April 10, 2004 when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference. The two have exchanged blows the last few seasons in Ruston, as UTEP pulled out the brooms against LA Tech in 2014 (first-ever conference road sweep in school history), while the Lady Techsters returned the favor and swept the Miners last season.

Scouting LA Tech

The Ladytechsters are 16-6 after a blowout loss to No. 4 LSU, 30-8 on March 15 in Ruston, but defeated Northwestern State 4-3 the next day. LA Tech ranks fifth in hitting (.308) and third in home runs (22) in Conference USA.

LA Tech’s fielding ranks seventh in percentage (.963) and has committed 25 errors. Anna Cross is hitting .409 to lead her team, while ranking third in C-USA; Cross leads the league in slugging (.833), leads the league in runs (25), ranks tied second in RBI (26) and second in home runs (eight).

Morgan Turkoly is hitting .353 with three home runs and 16 RBI, while Pauline Tufi has connected on four home runs and 16 RBI. The team ERA is 3.69, as Baily Allen (6-3) leads the staff in wins, ERA (2.49), innings (56.1), starts (11), Ks (40) and has only walked 12 batters. Preslee Gallaway (4-1) has a 3.76 ERA in 54.0 innings, while walking 22 and striking out 24.

Last Series (UTEP 0, LA Tech 3)

UTEP scored one run the entire weekend (April 3-4, 2015), losing game one 8-0 (five innings), game two 2-1 in extra innings (nine) and game three 6-0. The lone run was a Kawehiokalani Netane solo shot in the sixth inning that tied the contest. Kaitlin Fifield took the loss, but held her own in 8.1 innings, allowing only six hits and fanning a pair.

All-Time Series vs. Missouri

The March 21 doubleheader will be the first time the two programs tangle.

Scouting Missouri

No. 15 Mizzou Softball boasts a 17-4 record during the 2016 campaign. Missouri swept Western Illinois in a mid-week doubleheader (March 16) where the Tigers earned a pair of 6-0 victories in both contests. Against Western Illinois, The Tigers’ pitching staff combined for 14.0 shutout innings.

Recently, Mizzou Softball has defeated No. 17 Arizona State, 8-0, and No. 22 Baylor, 10-4. The Tigers are averaging a team total batting percentage of .356 and 25 home runs. Sami Fagan is ranked eighth in SEC rankings for batting percentages with an average of .452, as she is also the team leader for hitting for the Tigers.

Taylor Gadbois is also ranked amongst SEC rankings at No. 11 with a hitting percentage of .443. Chloe Rathburn leads Missouri with 29 RBI, as Fagan follows with 23 RBI. In the circle, Danielle Baumgartner (8-1) leads with a 1.17 ERA in 47.2 innings pitched, and the total staff has a 2.88 ERA in innings pitched (136.1).

Last Week

UTEP went 0-5 last week, while dropping its sixth consecutive game after falling to New Mexico 7-6 in the second game of a two-game series on March 15. The Miners are also coming off a sweep at Marshall on March 12 and 13. Linda Garcia and Kaitlin Ryder each connected on home runs in Huntington, W.V.

Offensive Ranking in C-USA

UTEP’s offense has been a bright spot, as is hitting .305 after the last five contests. The Miners rank sixth in that category, while ranking no. 2 in home runs (23) behind North Texas (27). UTEP ranks third in hits (215) behind Southern Miss (216), ranks tied third in doubles (33), and fourth in slugging (.459).

Offensive Improvement

After hitting  .264 with 18 home runs in 2013, the last few seasons have seen offensive numbers increase. In 2104, UTEP hit .290 with 30 dingers, while last season, its .293 average is the second best average in school history. The Miners also connected on 39 long balls in 2015. The 2007 team hit a program-best .303, while the 2009 squad recorded a school-record 63 jacks.

#TurnUp

UTEP turned a trio of double plays against Marshall on March 13, tying a program record. The feat as been achieved three other times – the last time being Feb. 13, 2005 against North Texas. The Miners are tied first with LA Tech with 14 double plays turned in 2016. Last season, UTEP tied a program record with the 2007 team by registering 21 double plays.

The Miners are on pace for about 27 double plays, which would ranks no. 1 in school history. The Conference USA record is 32, by the 2009 UCF squad. FIU led the league in 2015 (24 DPs).

Reducing Miscues

UTEP has committed 28 errors during the first 27 games in 2016, five less than last season at this time. If the Miners keep this pace, they will have committed around 55 errors, which would be the least in program history. The 2007 defense committed only 59 in 2007. The fielding has improved, somewhat, during the last few seasons.

In 2012, UTEP committed 86 errors, while in 2013, 81 miscues were scored. Since Tobin Echo-Hawk and Cristina Cobb-Adams – both infielders in college – arrived to the Sun City, the Miners committed 69 in 2014 and 73 last season. North Texas (12) and Charlotte (15) are top two teams with the least amount of miscues.

Double Down

After tying a career best by tallying a pair of doubles against New Mexico on March 15 (game two), sophomore Courtney Clayton ranks no. 1 in Conference USA in doubles (11) and is on pace for around 21 in 2016. Camilla Carrera holds the school standard with 19 in 2009. Ashley Eldridge (2014), Chelsea Troupe (2009) and Ashley Bennett (2005) each tallied 17 – second best in school history. Clayton set her career high with two doubles against Grand Canyon on Feb. 21.

More on Court

Courtney Clayton’s bat has set the bar, as she leads the Miners in hitting (.378), slugging (.656), runs scored (23), hits (34), doubles (11), total bases (59), while tied for the team lead in RBI (22), home runs (four) and triples (one). As far as Conference USA rankings, Clayton ranks first in doubles, 10th in hitting, fifth in slugging, fifth in runs scored, fourth in hits, tied eighth in RBI, and second in total bases. Clayton ranks tied eighth is assists.

Walk This Way

Kaitlin Ryder ranks tied third in Conference USA in walks (16) after posting three more the past five contests. Last season, Ryder walked 11 times in 79 at bats; this season, Ryder has 75 at bats. At this pace, Ryder could crack the top five in school history in walks. Stacie Townsend was walked 51 times in 2010, while Camilla Carrera walked 49 times in 2012. Townsend (34 in 2008), Amber Bennett (33 in 2007) and Carrera (31 in 2009) round out the list.

The Ryd Stuff

Sophomore Kaitlin Ryder has made a dramatic improvement in her hitting this season after hitting .241 in 2015. She ranks second on the team in batting average (.373), slugging (.560), runs scored (17), hits (28) and total bases (45). Ryder’s on-base percentage (.489) leads UTEP and ranks no. 5 in conference. Ryder has matched her home run (three) total from her freshman campaign, and needs three RBI to match her 2015 total of 16.

Salute Sarge

Taylor Sargent is on a five-game hitting streak, which is currently tied with Ariel Blair. It’s also the longest team streak of 2016. The sophomore’s bat has also made a dramatic improvement her sophomore campaign after hitting .232 in 2015. Sargent ranks third on the team in hitting (.315) and has hit a home run with nine RBI.

She’s tied with two other teammates with 11 runs scored. Defensively, Sargent has played the infield and outfield, but has been primarily used at first base. She leads the team in putouts (123) and is tied for seventh in Conference USA, while tied second with seven double plays fielded in C-USA. Sargent has tallied six doubles in 2016 – second most on the team – after tallying four last year.

Fresh Producers

Freshmen Ariel Blair, Cortney Smith and Lindsey Sokoloski have made major contributions to the team in 2016. Blair is on a five-game hitting streak and is batting .349 (15-for-43) with eight runs scored and a pair of stolen bags (leads team), while starting 16 contests in the outfield. Sokoloski is hitting .289 (11-for-38) with seven runs and a trio of RBI, and has started 10 contests.

Smith is hitting .286 (12-for-42) with a home run, five RBI and nine runs, while starting 17 games at the shortstop position.

Jade’s a Gem

Jade Rodriguez, after getting off to a slow start her senior season, has picked it up the last five contests. It all started in Tucson, where she tied her career high in hits on a 3-for-4 night against Mount St. Mary’s on March 5. Rodriguez is hitting .533 (8-for-15) with four runs scored, while only striking out twice. She’s also recorded four putouts and four assists from the outfield.

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