The UTEP softball team is set to host North Texas in its final home Conference USA series on April 30 and May 1 at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. Seniors Kawehiokalani Netane, Danielle Pearson, Morgan Rasmason andJade Rodriguez will be honored on Senior Day immediately following the contest on Sunday.
The Miners (19-28, 10-8 C-USA) and Mean Green (20-28, 3-15 C-USA) will play a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m., while Sunday’s Senior Day contest is a noon start. The 2016 seniors will be honored following the series finale.
Saturday’s doubleheader has a ticket special – buy one, get one free. Sunday’s Senior Day contest is free for all fans.
The team will practice at 2 p.m. today and 1 p.m. on Friday.
Conference USA Update
Even after last weekend’s sweep by UAB (12-6 Conference USA), UTEP (10-8) remains in the hunt for a C-USA Tournament bid. The Blazers are in first in the West Division, while the Miners and Southern Miss (10-8) are tied for second. LA Tech (8-7), after sweeping North Texas (3-15) last weekend, stands in fourth, while UTSA (9-9) is in fifth after its bye week.
No. 23/24 Florida Atlantic (16-2) was the first team to clinch a spot in the tourney, as it won the East Division after sweeping Charlotte (7-11). Marshall (9-9) got a much-needed sweep against Middle Tennessee (6-12), to move into second in the east. WKU (7-8), FIU (8-10) and Charlotte round out the standings in the east.
Conference USA Format
Conference USA softball is spit into two divisions, same as last year. Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, and WKU make up the East Division, while LA Tech, North Texas, Southern Miss, UAB, UTEP and UTSA will play in the West. The C-USA Tournament will by played May 11-14 in Denton, Texas (North Texas).
The top eight teams in the regular season standings will qualify for the four-day championship. The first day will be single elimination, with seeds three and four receiving a bye. The top two seeds earn a double-bye to advance to the second day, when it becomes double-elimination until the final two teams are determined.
Those two will be in the single-elimination championship final with the winner earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Scouting North Texas
The Mean Green (20-28, 3-15 C-USA) is on a nine-game losing streak after falling short in a doubleheader sweep to Texas Tech. The losing streak started with a loss to No. 9 Oklahoma on April 13. North Texas was defeated by Southern Miss in a three-game series April 16 and 17, and lost another contest to fellow C-USA competitor LA Tech on April 23 and 24.
UNT is hitting a .276 average as a team with 38 home runs. Kelli Schkade leads the Mean Green with a .391 batting average, home runs (13), RBI (40), and stolen bases (14). Danie Gregory is ranked second on the team in hitting (.329), while Harley Perella has tallied four home runs and 25 RBI. In the circle, Jessica Elder (13-10) leads the staff with a 3.82 ERA in 144.2 innings, as the staff as a team has a 4.22 ERA.
North Texas is currently sitting in last place in C-USA West Division, however Schkade is ranked fourth overall in conference for hitting average and is ranked first for home runs.
All-Time Series vs. North Texas
The Mean Green owns the all-time series 8-1, dating back to March 6, 2004. The Miners have lost the last seven contests, including back-to-back sweeps by the Mean Green (2014 & 2015). UTEP last defeated North Texas on Feb. 13, 2005 by the score of 1-0. North Texas is making its second trip to the Sun City, as the two squads met on March 21-22, 2014 at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
Last Series (UTEP 0, North Texas 3)
The Mean Green swept the Miners in a three-game set on May 2-3, 2015 in Denton, Texas. UTEP entered the weekend series half a game up, needing the win two games to advance to the conference tournament. But North Texas took care of business during the Saturday doubleheader, winning both to clinch the no. 7 seed.
The Miners offense did well; hitting .341 with four home runs, but the Mean Green did better by hitting .407 with nine home runs and 35 runs.
Clayton vs. North Texas in 2015
Courtney Clayton put up great numbers against the Mean Green during last season’s regular season series finale in Denton. The then-freshman hit .545 (6-for-11) with a pair of home runs, five RBI, three runs and a double. Clayton connected on a two-run jack in her first at bat of the series on a 3-1 pitch.
Clayton hit her second long ball of the day in game two during the seventh inning, a solo shot and seventh four-bagger of 2015. Clayton capped off her final game of her first season with an exclamation mark by finishing 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run.
UTEP leads Conference USA with 69 doubles after tallying six more this past weekend against UAB. Three Miners rank in the top five in double as Courtney Clayton leads the way with 18. Taylor Sargent (13) is ranked tied third with North Texas’ Kelli Schkade, while Kiki Pepi (12) ranks tied fifth with Southern Miss’ Tori Dew. The Miners are on pace for around 77 doubles. The school record is 87 in 2008, followed by 84 in 2009 and 81 in 2007.
UTEP has hit 44 home runs, surpassing last season’s total of 39, after connecting on five more this past weekend against UAB. The Miners rank no. 2 in Conference USA behind LA Tech (51). After hitting 18 home runs in 2013, since the arrival ofTobin Echo-Hawk, the Orange and Blue have hit 108 dingers since 2014. It’s also the most home runs since hitting 45 in 2008. The school record is 63 (2009), while 62 (2012), 57 (2006) and 50 (2007) round out the list.
UTEP is ranked third in Conference USA and no. 42 in the nation with its .313 batting average and is one of four C-USA schools hitting over .300. FIU leads the league (.318) while Marshall ranks second (.315). LA Tech is hitting .302. It’s been another consistent offensive element since Tobin Echo-Hawk arrived in 2014, when the team hit .290 after hitting .264 the previous season. Last season, the Miners fashioned the second-best average (.293) in school history. The 2007 Miners recorded a program-best .303 average.
The UTEP offense has been a hit thus far, as it ranks no. 3 in Conference USA in hits (392). FIU leads the league (411), while Marshall ranks second (397). The Miners are averaging 8.3 hits per game, in which the team is on pace for around 442. The school record is 442 done in 2009. UTEP’s total this year is already the seventh-most in school history.
Crossing the Dish
UTEP has scored 217 runs in 2016 and is on pace for around 244 runs at 4.6 runs per game. The most runs scored all-time is 306 in 2007. It’s also the most runs per game since third-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk took over the program. The Miners averaged 4.5 runs per game in 2014 and 4.2 last season.
Rankings in C-USA Games Only
UTEP ranks no. 1 in hitting (.340), hits (180), doubles (36), home runs (23) and slugging (.539) in Conference USA games only. The Miners rank no. 2 in runs scored (97) behind UAB (101). Defensively, UTEP ranks tied first (UAB) with 12 double plays turned, while ranking first in assists (212).
UTEP turned a trio of double plays against UAB on April 23-24, setting a new school standard with 23 doubles plays turned in 2016. The Miners surpassed the old record of 21 (2007 & 2015 seasons) after turning a pair during Saturday’s contests. The defense recorded another double play on Sunday to extend the record.
The Miners also lead Conference USA in that department, while ranking tied 15th nationally with Illinois at .49 double plays per game. Earlier in the season, UTEP tied a school record by turning a trio of double plays against Marshall on March 13. The feat has been achieved three other times – the last time being Feb. 13, 2005 against North Texas.
Born to Assist
The UTEP defense has shown considerable improvement, as it ranks first in Conference USA with 452 assists. The Miners are on pace for around 509 assists, which would be the most in school history. The 2015 squad recorded 489 (most in program history), while the 2009 team registered 488.
Courtney Clayton has assembled a great sophomore campaign while starting at the leadoff position the majority of the season. Clayton leads Conference USA in doubles (18) and total bases (110). Clayton ranks no. 2 in hitting (.423) behind Marshall’s Kaelynn Greeene (.467), as both are the only two C-USA hitters with a better than .400 average.
Nationally, Clayton ranks no. 44 in hitting. Clayton ranks second in hits (69) behind Greene (70), while ranking no. 9 in RBI (34), no. 5 in slugging (.675) and no. 11 in on-base percentage (.439). Clayton is also ranked second on the team with seven home runs, matching her total from last year.
Courtney Clayton has only struck out eight times in 163 at bats, which break down to Clayton striking out every 20.4 at bats. She ranks no. 3 in Conference USA and no. 67 nationally.
Clayton in C-USA Games Only
Courtney Clayton is ranked first in batting (.486), hits (35) and doubles (10) in Conference USA games only. Clayton ranks seventh in slugging (.750) and on-base percentage (.486), while her 15 runs are tied fourth. Clayton has hit three home runs with 12 RBI in 18 league contests.
Clayton’s Career Average
Courtney Clayton is currently ranked no. 3 on the all-time hitting list in UTEP history. Clayton will enter the weekend with a .364 average (120-of-330), behind sluggers Chelsea Troupe (.384) and Camilla Carrera (.401).
Clayton Seeing Double
Courtney Clayton ranks no. 1 in Conference USA with 18 doubles and is ranked no. 14 nationally in doubles per game (.38). South Carolina’s Kaylea Snaer leads the nation with 24. Clayton currently has the second-most in program history and is one double from tying the school record set by Camilla Carrera with 19 in 2009.
Smith’s Hitting Stretch
Cortney Smith is coming off a solid weekend offensively after connecting on a pair of home runs against UAB. In fact, the freshman hit .400 (4-for-10) with four RBI and two runs against the Blazers. Smith’s bat has gained some momentum as of late after a 4-for-29 slump (.138 avg.) from March 4-April 2. Prior to her slump, Smith was hitting .353 to begin her collegiate career (Feb. 13-March 2). Since April 3 (10 games), Smith is hitting .320 (8-for-25) with three home runs, five RBI and six runs scored. Smith is currently hitting .273 with four long balls, 11 RBI and 19 runs in 40 games played, and making 36 starts at the shortstop position.
More From Moreno
Hope Moreno finally ranks in the top 20 in hitting as she’s started the last 30 contests. The sophomore is hitting .343 with five home runs and 14 RBI. During her last 22 games (March 15-April 24), the sophomore is hitting .417 (25-for-60) with 11 RBI, nine runs, five doubles and a trio of home runs. She’s been solid at first base, as Moreno recorded 13 putouts in back-to-back games on March 25, while recording 10 more the next day. The previous nine games (Feb. 26-March 12), Moreno hit .238 (5-for-21). Moreno is also hitting .396 in league only games and is ranked ninth in that category.
The Ryd Stuff
Kaitlin Ryder has made a dramatic improvement in the batter’s box in 2016. After hitting .241 last year, the sophomore ranks second on the team in batting (.345), while ranking no. 10 in Conference USA in on-base percentage (.439). Ryder also has four home runs, 22 RBI, ranks second on the team in runs (27), while digging out five doubles and a triple. Ryder has also shown patience at the plate, walking a team-high 22 times (ranks seventh in Conference USA).
Taylor Sargent’s bat has made a big improvement after hitting .232 in 2015. The sophomore has been drilling doubles, ranking tied third in Conference USA with 13. Sargent ranks fifth on the team in hitting (.314), while connecting on two home runs with 16 RBI and 19 runs scored. Defensively, Sargent has played some first base, but mostly right field this season. She ranks second on the team in putouts (148). She ended a 10-game hitting streak (March 25-April 17), batting .324 (12-for-37) during that span. It’s the longest streak on the team thus far.
Kiki Pepi has been stellar at the plate since arriving to UTEP. Pepi is ranked tied fifth in Conference USA with 38 RBI, and ranks tied fifth in doubles (12). Pepi is ranked fourth on the team in hitting (.322) and ranks third in home runs (six). Pepi has contributed with 49 hits, 20 runs and a triple. After a 2-for-17 slump (March 4-12), Pepi is hitting .333 (27-for-81) with 16 RBI and a pair of home runs in her last 24 games (March 12-April 24).
Vacuuming at Third Base
Kiki Pepi’s glove has been a Hoover at third base in 2016. The junior set a school record with nine assists at FIU in game one on March 25. The previous record was seven assists; accomplished seven times by six players. Pepi currently ranks third in Conference USA with 112 assists and is on pace for around 126, which would be a program record. Pepi’s nine assists are also a game high in C-USA this season. Stacie Townsend holds the program single-season record with 114 in 2009.