The UTEP softball team will take a break from league action to host rival NM State in the FirstLight FCU Battle of I-10 on March 28 in a two-game set starting at 5 p.m. at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
Fans who wear to orange to the contests will get in free.
The Miners (8-21) and Aggies (10-16) will face each other for the 40th time after the game one first pitch. UTEP defeated NM State, 5-3, in Las Cruces on March 1. It was the first win up the road for the Miners against the Aggies since Feb. 15, 2010.
Head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk has beaten NM State twice during her four seasons at the helm, which includes a victory in 2014.
“It’s nice to know it’s a rivalry game, knowing that the girls will be fired up to play this one. Going into this game, they will try to prove something like they always do,” said Echo-Hawk.
UTEP pounded out a season-high 15 hits in its 12-2 (5) run-rule game-one victory against Southern Miss on March 25, but only tallied a combined 10 hits the next two contests. However, the Miners have shown they can rack up knocks against the Aggies as 11 hits were recorded during the March 1 triumph.
And following the team’s loss on Sunday in which four hits were tallied, Echo-Hawk had a post-game talk with the squad to get back in the swing of things against NM State on Tuesday.
“We were just talking about thing to do offensively so we can get back on track,” Echo-Hawk said. “Hitting is a hard thing to do. It’s hard to remain consistent. It’s hard not to let one at-bat carry into the next at-bat. I know we are a better hitting team than that.”
UTEP is currently hitting .294 in 2017. Since Echo-Hawk’s arrival prior to the 2014 campaign, the Miners are hitting .296 in 188 games played.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. NM STATE
UTEP is 11-28 all-time against NM State, dating back to March 24, 2004. UTEP recently ended a seven-game losing streak to NM State after coming out on top, 5-3, on March 1 in Las Cruces. The Miners are 8-10 all-time in El Paso, while losing the last three contests at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
The Orange and Blue last won in the Sun City on March 4, 2014 by the score of 5-1. Overall, UTEP is 2-7 in the last nine contests since the 2014 victory. The Miners last won consecutive contests against the Aggies during a three-game stretch (UTEP def. NM State 12-7 on Feb. 19, 2009, 22-5 on Feb. 15, 2010 & 5-0 on March 23, 2010).
UTEP defeated NM State 5-3 on March 1 in Las Cruces. The Miners struck first as they jumped out to a 5-0 advantage. Hope Moreno put her squad on top 1-0 in the fourth when she was hit by a pitch in a pinch-hit situation with bases loaded. The Miners then jumped out 3-0 after Kiki Pepi lined a two-run home run over center in the fifth inning.
Pepi came up big again in the sixth, this time with a two-run single lined up the middle. The Aggies kept things interesting when they scored three runs in the sixth, but Devyn Cretz and Erika Harrawood combined to keep the victory intact. Cretz earned the win, hurling 5.2 frames and fanning five batters, and Harrawood earned her first career save in 1.2 innings of work, while striking out the last batter to seal the deal.
SCOUTING NM STATE
The Aggies have racked up a 10-16 record and are coming off a 5-2, 7-3 double header loss to PAC-12’s no. 21 Arizona State last Wednesday in Tempe, Ariz. Together, the Aggies are hitting .296 to rank third among the WAC. Reigning 2016 WAC Freshman of the Year Kelsey Horton, now a sophomore, is leading the lineup, batting .391 that includes four home runs, 10 doubles, and 22 RBI.
Horton’s numbers rank fourth in batting, third in RBI, and third for doubles in the WAC. The pitching staff has tallied an ERA of 4.05, with sophomore Kayla Green leading the crew with a 3.97 ERA to rank fifth in WAC, as well as leading the team in wins (six).
Fellow pitcher Samaria Diaz leads the team with 38 strikeouts, including a season-high seven Ks against Southern Illinois on March 11. NM State ranks second in conference in pitching and fielding.
UTEP defeated Southern Miss, 12-2, in five frames, but fell 6-2 and 6-1 the next two contests to lose the series. The Miners (3-6) and Golden Eagles (3-6) have the same record in the Conference USA West Division following the weekend series. The Miners bats exploded for a season-high 15 hits in the game one victory and crossed the dish a season-high 12 times against the Golden Eagles. Overall, UTEP hit .309 (25-81) and actually outscored Southern Miss, 15-14, in the three-game set.
Kaitlin Ryder also recorded a career-high five RBI in game one, while Kiki Pepi and Mallorie Cross each tallied four RBI during the weekend. Courtney Clayton and Macey Brown each chipped in with a RBI. Erika Harrawood earned the game one victory, throwing 5.0 frames and striking out a trio of batters.
SEASON HIGH IN RUNS & HITS
A week after tying the season high in runs (10) and hits (13) during UTEP’s 10-7 win against Middle Tennessee, the Miners set their season high in runs (12) and hits (15) during a 12-2 (5) victory over Southern Miss. The most runs and hits tallied during the Tobin Echo-Hawk era was a 16-run outburst against Mount St. Mary’s on March 5, 2016 and a 17-hit barrage against Incarnate Word on Feb. 11, 2016.
After hitting .226 the first nine games, the UTEP bats have picked up the pace, hitting .321 (178-554) the last 20 games. Overall, the Miners are hitting .294 during the season, ranking fifth in Conference USA and no. 79 nationally.
UTEP is one of five programs hitting .290 or better; Marshall leads the pack with a .326 batting average. UTEP ranks sixth in hits (229) and slugging (.406).
UTEP recorded five more doubles during the Southern Miss series and ranks tied sixth in Conference USA with North Texas (34 doubles). LA Tech leads the way with 44, while Marshall (43), Charlotte (41), FIU (39) and UTSA (38) round out the list.
UTEP’s 1.17 doubles per game ranks fifth in C-USA and 150 nationally. Marshall leads C-USA with 1.54 doubles and Seton Hall leads the nation with 2.08 doubles per game.
DIGGING OUT TRIPLES
UTEP ranks tied fifth with Florida Atlantic with six triples in 2017. LA Tech leads the way with 10, UTSA ranks second with eight, and Charlotte and Marshall each have seven. The Miners’ .21 triples per game ranks fourth in C-USA and no. 90 nationally.
C-USA OFFENSIVE NUMBERS
UTEP ranks second with a .311 batting average in Conference USA games only. Marshall leads with a .336 batting average. The Miners rank fourth in slugging (.389), fifth in on-base (.349), second in runs scored (41) [Marshall leads with 64 runs], third in hits (76), second in RBI (41), tied second with LA Tech in doubles (11) and third in total bases (95).
UTEP was hit three more times by pitches this past weekend against Southern Miss. The Miners rank tied fourth with Southern Miss with 17 HBPs. WKU leads the league with 54 HBPs, while North Texas (24) ranks second and FIU (20) ranks third.
Hope Moreno was hit by another pitch this past weekend, giving her five in 2017, to rank tied seventh in Conference USA with FIU’s Stephanie Texeira. WKU’s Taylor Proctor leads with 15 HBPs.
TOUGH TO STRIKEOUT
UTEP has left the plate swinging or looking only 110 times in 780 at bats to rank 11th in Conference USA. Marshall leads the way with 101, while WKU has struck out the most with 211. Lindsey Sokoloski leads C-USA and ranks fourth nationally, only fanning once in 81 at bats. Sokoloski is one of 12 players nationally to only strikeout once, while Victoria Nelson of Jackson State has not struck out (79 at bats) this season.
Baylor’s Lindsey Cargill (102 at bats) and Nicholls State’s Brooke Morris (98 at bats) rank ahead of Sokoloski. Courtney Clayton has struck out two times in 100 at bats to rank fourth in C-USA and tied no. 56 nationally. Taylor Sargent (four Ks in 76 at bats) ranks fourth in C-USA and no. 109 nationally.
The UTEP defense turned a trio of double plays against Southern Miss – two in game two and one in game three. The Miners have turned 14 double plays in 2017, ranking fourth in Conference USA. FIU ranks first with 17, while WKU and UAB have each turned 16 double plays. Last season, UTEP turned a program-high 30 double plays.
UTEP’s .957 fielding percentage ranks in the middle of the pack in Conference USA, while its 35 errors have been kept to a minimal, ranking eighth in least errors committed in C-USA.