First place in the Conference USA West Division is on the line, as the UTEP softball team will host UTSA on April 2-3 at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
Saturday’s doubleheader is set to start at 1 p.m., while the series finale is moved to 11:30 a.m. Saturday’s contests are free to all fans, while Sunday is Military Appreciation Day. Military and their families will have free admission on Sunday.
The Miners (15-20, 6-3 C-USA) and Roadrunners (12-20, 6-3 C-USA) are tied for first place after last weekend. UTEP completed a sweep at FIU on Easter Weekend, while UTSA dropped two of three contests against Middle Tennessee in San Antonio.
With its wins last weekend in Miami, Fla., UTEP had surpassed its win total (14) from 2015.
UTEP swept FIU in a trio of tight games on March 25-26 in Miami. The Miners ended a 15-game conference road-losing streak after a 2-1 victory during game one on Friday. UTEP followed with a 7-6 triumph in the second contest, setting a school record with five consecutive conference victories.
The Miners extended the winning streak to six after a 6-4 win, in which all six runs were scored with two outs on March 26. Kawehiokalani Netane connected on two home runs, the first was the go-ahead run, a solo shot in the fifth in game one, while the second was a two-run shot in the fourth inning with FIU leading 3-0 in game three.
In game one, Courtney Clayton tied the game one contest with a solo home run during the third inning. In the circle, Kaitlin Fifeld picked up a pair of wins, while Danielle Pearson won game two.
The Roadrunners are 12-20 (6-3, C-USA) after wrapping up four contests at home last week. UTSA took a break from conference play on March 22 and faced off against No. 20 Baylor, where the Roadrunners fell short 6-5 to the Bears. UTSA returned to C-USA play on the weekend with a three-game home set against Middle Tennessee.
In game one of a doubleheader, the Roadrunners defeated Middle Tennessee 7-1, however the Blue Raiders jumped ahead in game two for an 18-0 win. To finish the weekend’s contest, the Roadrunners fell to Middle Tennessee 7-5 in eight innings on March 26. The Roadrunners’ leading hitter is Jade Smith who has a .338 batting average. Randee Crawford is the team’s leading run producer with 18 RBI and nine home runs, while Tess Soefje follows with 11 RBI and five home runs.
UTSA pitchers have a collective 3.97 ERA and the group is paced by Lizzy Fox (5-6) with a 2.73 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 97.1 innings pitched. Compared to C-USA competitors, the Roadrunners are second to last in batting with a 2.59 average and are last in conference in defense with a .945 fielding average.
UTSA leads the all-time series 11-5, while sweeping UTEP last season in San Antonio. The Roadrunners have won eight of the last nine contests, dating back to the 2010 season. UTEP’s last win against UTSA was a 7-6, nine-inning affair in El Paso on April 26, 2014. UTEP is 3-6 all-time at home against UTSA.
Last Series (UTEP 0, UTSA 3)
The Roadrunners won all three contests against the Miners last season in San Antonio. The Miners were swept the first two games on April 18, losing 7-3 in game one and fell short 5-4 in game two. In game one, Hope Moreno, Linda Garcia, andTaylor Sargent added a knock apiece, while Erika Harrawood established a career in innings pitched (6.1) and strikeouts (six), in game two.
On April 19 in the last meeting between the Conference USA West Division foes, UTSA completed the series win with an 8-0 victory in five innings over the Miners.
Winning C-USA Games in the Sun City
The Miners are 6-5 in the Sun City, but most importantly, 3-0 at Helen of Troy Softball Complex against C-USA competition this season. In fact, last season, the Miners forged a 9-3 home conference record, making it a combined 12-3 mark and 17-10 overall record the last three seasons.
Second-Ever Conference Road Sweep
UTEP recorded its second sweep at a conference opponent in program history. The Miners first achieved a road sweep at a league foe in 2014 at LA Tech (March 15-16).
UTEP has been able to pull out its brooms for two consecutive weeks. For the first time in program history, the Miners recorded back-to-back sweeps. The Orange and Blue started with a sweep against LA Tech in El Paso (March 19-20), while taking a three-game set at FIU (March 25-26).
Best Conference Start in School History
After its sweep at FIU, UTEP is 6-3 to start conference action. The league season started at Marshall, in which UTEP lost the series 3-0. But the Miners have bounced back to win their last six conference contests, while completing the back-to-back sweeps. UTEP started 5-4 in league play in 2010 and 2015.
UTEP has won six consecutive conference games, the most in program history. The Miners won four consecutive twice, the first during the 2006 campaign and the second in 2008. In 2006, UTEP won at Houston on April 2 and 3, while winning two against Marshall on April 8. In 2008, the Miners won two at East Carolina on April 19 and 20 and a pair versus Southern Miss on April 26.
Road Losing Streak Ended
UTEP ended a 15-game conference road-losing streak after it’s 2-1 game one victory at FIU March 25. The previous league road win came at East Carolina on May 4, 2014, a 4-1 victory. The Miners were 0-12 in 2015, while losing their first three conference road games at Marshall this season. On Feb. 19, UTEP won at UNLV, 6-0, ending an overall 21-game road losing streak.
UTEP moved to no. 99 on the recent RPI poll that was released on March 28. The Miners opened at no. 136 when the initial poll was released on March 21. UTEP finished no. 200 in 2015, 185 in 2014, 234 in 2013, 209 in 2012, 188 in 2011, 75 in 2010 (highest in program history), 106 in 2009, 86 in 2008, 112 in 2007, 157 in 2006, 199 in 2005 and 244 in 2004 (lowest in program history).
UTEP had a nice offensive weekend during its sweep at FIU. The Miners hit .337 (30-for-89) with 15 runs, seven doubles five home runs and 14 RBI. The Miners currently lead Conference USA in doubles (48) and at bats (919).
The Orange and Blue also ranks second in home runs (30) behind North Texas (31), second in hits (286) behind FIU (299), fourth in runs (167) and RBI (143). The Miners’ .311 average ranks tied fourth with North Texas.
Knocking in Runs
The Miners have tallied 143 RBI in 2016, ranking fourth in Conference USA. The team is on pace for around 217 RBI, which would surpass the 2014 (193) and 2015 (201) totals. The 2007 squad tallied 264 RBI, while the 2006 team recorded 248.
Offensive Numbers in C-USA Contests
UTEP is one of seven programs to have played nine conference games up to this point. The Miners lead in runs scored (48), doubles (17), hits (85) and RBI (43) in league only games, while ranking third in hitting (.333). UTEP’s nine long balls rank tied second with UTSA behind WKU’s 10 jacks.
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 lead Conference USA with 17 double plays turned after recording two more at FIU. The Miners also rank no. 22 nationally, turning .49 double plays per game.
UCLA leads with .73 p/g. Last season, UTEP tied a program record with the 2007 team by registering 21 double plays. The Miners are on pace for about 26 double plays, which would rank no. 1 in school history. The Conference USA record is 32, by the 2009 UCF squad. FIU led the league in 2015 (24 DPs).
UTEP has committed 35 errors during the first 35 games in 2016, eight less than last season at this time. If the Miners keep this pace, they will have committed around 53 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 (17) and UAB (21) are top two teams with the least amount of miscues in 2016.
Leading in Assists
The UTEP defense is leading Conference USA in assists (317), while being one of two programs in C-USA to have tallied 300-plus in 2016. Middle Tennessee ranks second with 312. Nationally, UTEP has recorded the sixth-most assists; Stetson leads with 395 assists. The Miners are on pace for around 480 assists, which would be third most in school history. The 2015 squad recorded 489, while the 2009 team registered 488.
Kawehiokalani Netane likes playing FIU. Last season, Netane won Player of the Week on April 13 after her performance against FIU in El Paso. This past weekend in her home state of Florida, Netane hit .500 (4-for-8) with a pair of home runs, five RBI, two runs, a double and a stolen base against FIU. In six-career games against FIU, Netane is hitting .471 (8-for-17) with three long balls, 10 RBI, six runs, three walks and seven assists.
Sensational Sophomore Campaign
Courtney Clayton had a great weekend at FIU, hitting .583 (7-for-12) with two doubles, two runs, a solo home run and an RBI. Clayton ranks high in multiple categories in Conference USA up to this point.
The sophomore ranks first in doubles (14), and at bats (119), ranks second in hits (48), while ranking fifth in hitting (.403) and in slugging (.664), fourth in runs scored (30), eighth in RBI (28) and second in total bases (79). Clayton has also only struck seven times in 119 at bats, ranking no. 148 in the nation and no. 9 in C-USA in toughest to strikeout (17.0).
Courtney Clayton ranks no. 1 in Conference USA in doubles (14) after recording two more at FIU and is on pace for around 21 in 2016. Clayton ranks tied 16th nationally in doubles per game (.40). 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 and has accomplished the feat two more times (at Marshall on March 12; vs. New Mexico on March 15). East Carolina’s Kate Manuse holds the C-USA single-season record with 26 in 2004.
Taylor Sargent drilled three more doubles, two against No. 15 Missouri on March 21, and another at FIU on March 26. The sophomore tallied two one-run doubles against the Tigers, while connecting on a two-run double at FIU that put UTEP in the lead 4-3. Sargent is ranked second on the team with 10 doubles, while ranking third in Conference USA.
Sophomore Taylor Sargent’s bat has made a dramatic improvement after hitting .232 in 2015. Sargent ranks third on the team in hitting (.313), while connecting on a home run with 15 RBI and 17 runs scored.
Defensively, Sargent has played first base and right field, pretty much splitting time between the two positions. She ranks second on the team in putouts (134), while ranking tied fifth with seven double plays fielded in C-USA. Sargent also recorded UTEP’s longest hitting streak of 2016, with nine games. Sargent hit .414 (12-for-29) during the streak (March 12-21) with five RBI, five doubles and five runs.
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 leads Conference USA with 86 assists and is on pace for around 130, which would be a program record.
Pepi’s assists are also a game high for C-USA this season, and tied with five other players for third-most nationally. Stacie Townsend holds the program single-season record with 114 in 2009.
Kiki Pepi currently leads the Miners with 30 RBI and ranks tied fourth in Conference USA in that category. Pepi is tied with teammate Kawehiokalani Netane with six home runs. Pepi is hitting .313 (35-for112) with 15 runs, seven doubles and a triple. After a 2-for-17 slump (March 4-12), Pepi went on an eight-game hitting streak (March 12-21).
Pepi hit .321 with six RBI, a home run, three walks and three runs scored. And after not recording an RBI in six straight contests (March 6-15), Pepi tallied six during the series sweep against LA Tech.
More from Moreno
Hope Moreno has seen more playing time as of late, while providing solid fielding and hitting. During her last nine games (March 15-26), the sophomore is hitting .500 (13-for-26) with three RBI, five runs, a double and a home run. Moreno connected on a clutch two-run jack at FIU on March 26 that gave her squad a 6-3 lead.
Moreno also 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 was hitting .238 (5-for-21).
The Ryd Stuff
Kaitlin Ryder has made a dramatic improvement in the batter’s box in 2016. After hitting .241 last season, the sophomore ranks second on the team in batting (.353), while leading in on-base percentage (.455).
Ryder also has three home runs, 17 RBI, ranks second on the team in runs (21), while digging out three doubles and a triple. Ryder has also shown patience at the plate, walking a team-high 17 times, which is ranked tied fifth in Conference USA.
Fifield Cracking the Win’s List
After winning a pair of contests at FIU March 25 and 26, junior hurler Kaitlin Fifield moved to no. 7 on the all-time win’s list in program history. Fifield has won 16-career contests and is one away from tying Colleen Hohman and Megan Barber.Nichole Tunget is ranked no. 4 with 18 triumphs.
Completing the Circle
With UTEP’s six consecutive league wins, starting pitchers Kaitlin Fifield and Danielle Pearson have been solid, hurling six consecutive complete games. Fifield and Pearson have each fashioned 3-0 marks during the streak in conference play, as Fifield has a 3.33 ERA in 21.0 frames and Pearson has a 2.45 ERA during her 20.0 innings of work.
3 Wins in 3 Starts for Pearson
Danielle Pearson has won three consecutive starts for the first time in her career, after notching victories against LA Tech on March 19 and 20, while picking up a win a week later at FIU on March 25. Last season, Pearson won three straight, but had two no-decisions in the middle of that span (Feb. 28-March 11).
Great Day Fielding
Freshman Cortney Smith has started 24 contests at the shortstop position. Smith recorded a career-high seven assists on March 26 at FIU. Her total was also the second most in UTEP history with five other players. Smith was also part of a pair of double plays turned during game three at FIU. Smith has recorded 26 putouts and 47 assists in her first season.