The UTEP softball program play six total contests in Boca Raton, Fla., March 10-13 as the Miners will play three games at the FAU Parents’ Weekend Tournament and are slated to open Conference USA action at Florida Atlantic.
UTEP (10-12) will open the weekend on March 10 against Stony Brook (4-6) at 4 p.m. MST and LIU Brooklyn (6-13) at 6:15 p.m., and will conclude the tournament against Rutgers (9-9) at 1:45 p.m. on March 11. The Miners will open C-USA play against Florida Atlantic (11-10) on March 12 at 2 p.m. in the doubleheader (game two will follow about 25 minutes after) and will end the road trip with a game three contest at 10 a.m. on March 13.
The Miners are coming off a six-game set in Hawai’i March 1-4.
UTEP defeated East Carolina, 1-0, behind Pamala Baber’s RBI double that plated Cortney Smith during the fourth inning and Kira McKechnie’s complete-game winning effort on the final day of the Texaco Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament. The victory was the first for the UTEP softball program in the state of Hawai’i.
Though the Miners’ bats struggled, the pitching staff showed signs of improvement after its opponents hit .265, while sophomore Allie Johnson threw a solid 6.0 innings in three appearances and Kira McKechnie improved to 6-3 after a career-high five K’s during the victory against ECU. McKechnie also recorded 14 strikeouts in 20.0 innings of work.
Junior Kacey Duffield also got a hold of her first home run in a UTEP uniform, a two-run shot against Hawai’i (March 4) that tied the contest 2-2 in the fourth inning.
Courtney Clayton was named to the Texas Malihini Aloha Kipa Aloha All-Tournament team after hitting .368 with a double, no strikeouts, while tallying 12 putouts and nine assist.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. STONY BROOK
The March 10 contest will mark the first between the two programs.
SCOUTING STONY BROOK
The Seawolves dropped to 4-6 after a pair of losses, the first to UC Riverside, 4-1, on March 3 and the second a 7-1 loss to Saint Mary’s the next day. Stony Brook is hitting .275 and has been outscored 39-30. Taylor Pechin leads the team with a .429 batting average, while connecting on the team’s only home run. Pechin’s five RBI also paces the squad.
Riley Craig is ranked second with a .391 average. Nicole McCarvill leads the team with five stolen bases and is hitting .296. The team ERA is 4.57, while Melissa Rahrich (2-2) leads the staff in wins, innings pitched (31.1) and K’s (17). Pechin (1-2) has tossed 21.0 frames.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. LIU BROOKLYN
The March 10 contest will mark the first between the two programs.
SCOUTING LIU BROOKLYN
The Blackbirds have upped their record to 6-13 after a pair of victories, the first during a 7-6 win against Eastern Michigan on March 3 and the second a 6-1 win against Northern Kentucky on March 4. The team is hitting .269 and has been outscored 122-76. The Blackbirds have combined for six home runs.
Ryleigh Bermea leads the team in home runs (three) and RBI (14), while ranking second in hitting (.357). Nereyda Gutierrez paces the team with a .381 batting average, while hitting a home run and tallying seven RBI. Evie Claussell (.250 avg.) and Emily Collins (.200 avg.) have each hit a home run for LIU. The staff ERA is 5.96, while Erynn Sobieski (3-5) leads the team in wins. Victoria Lowe (2-3) has won a pair of contests and leads the staff in innings pitched (46.2) and K’s (27).
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. RUTGERS
The March 11 contest will mark the first between the two programs.
The Scarlet Knights are coming off an 8-2 win over North Dakota at the Pirate Invitational at Hampton last weekend to even up their record at 9-9, and will meet with Stony Brook, Pittsburg and Florida A&M prior to its Sunday battle with the Miners. The Scarlet Knights lead all Division I teams in turning double plays at 0.89 per contest, posting 16 in 18 games. First baseman Rebecca Hall leads the charge with 12, while Hall has also been hot at the plate with a .467 avg. in 60 at-bats to lead the team and the Big Ten Conference.
The senior leads both the team and conference in hits with 28, RBIs with 24, triples with five and total bases with 53. Hall has also notched three home runs, six doubles, and five triples with a .883 slugging percentage through 18 games, and also leads the team in fielding with 120 catches. In the circle, Cambria Keefer has manned pitching duties with a team-best 2.07 ERA in 44.0 innings and a 4-3 record helped by her 16 strikeouts.
As a unit, the Scarlet Knights are hitting .246 to include 15 doubles, seven triples, and 10 home runs, while accumulating a 3.71 ERA in 120.2 innings pitched with 51 strike outs.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. FLORIDA ATLANTIC
The Miners are 1-5 all-time against the Owls, but won their last meeting. UTEP came out on top 6-4 on May 7, 2017 on Senior Day at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. The Miners scored three runs in the third inning to take an early 3-0 advantage. The inning started with a pinch-hit single from Taylor Grohmann with a runner on and two outs.
After Cortney Smith was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Kiki Pepi came up with a two-run single. Erika Harrawood made the start, throwing 3.1 inning and striking out three, Grohmann got the win, while Kaitlin Fifield earned the save, tossing 2.2 innings.
SCOUTING FLORIDA ATLANTIC
The Owls dropped to 11-10 after two losses at no. 10 LSU. The first was a 6-1 setback on March 3 and the second a 5-1 loss on March 4. FAU is 2-4 in its last six games after a 9-6 start to the season. The Owls are hitting .241, ranking on the bottom half of Conference USA and has been outscored 78-73.
All-C-USA performer Emily Lochten is hitting .311 (19-61) with a team-leading four home runs and 19 runs scored. Madisyn Palmer leads the Owls in hitting (.391) and stolen bases (20-22), while gathering 12 RBI. Tatum Buckley, despite hitting .191, leads the team with 15 RBI and has connected on two home runs. The team ERA is 2.81, which ranks in the top of the league. Buckley (7-3) leads the staff in wins, ERA (1.64), innings (64.0) and strikeouts (44). She’s also only walked nine batters. Mia Olson (4-4) has been solid, fashioning a 3.10 ERA in 58.2 innings and has tallied 29 K’s with 20 walks.
UTEP recorded another double play of the season when it turned its 10th at Hawai’i on March 3. The Miners lead Conference USA in the DP’s department, while ranking in the top 50 nationally at .45 double plays turned per game. UTEP’s March 11 opponent Rutgers leads the nation at .89 per game and 16 total DP’s turned.
BEEN CAUGHT STEALING
UTEP leads Conference USA with 12 caught stealing attempts, while Kaitlin Ryder is ranked tied for second in C-USA by catching nine trying to snag bags.
SECOND MOST RBI, HITS & TRIPLES
UTEP is ranked second in Conference USA with its 87 RBI behind WKU (100). The Miners have also gathered 164 hits, ranking second most in C-USA behind WKU (185). UTEP’s six triples is ranked second in C-USA behind WKU (eight).
TOP THREE IN HITTING
UTEP is one of three Conference USA programs hitting .290 or better, ranking third with its .290 batting average behind Middle Tennessee (.321) and WKU (.314). It’s not an uncommon thing to see a Tobin Echo-Hawk team hit for a high average as the Miners are hitting .297 into her fifth year as head coach. Courtney Clayton ranks ninth in the C-USA in batting (.382), Pamala Baber ranks 12th (.377) and Ariel Blair ranks 18th (.356).
GOING, GOING, GONE!
UTEP ranks third in Conference USA with its 15 dingers behind North Texas (24) and UTSA (16). The Miners are nine away from matching last year’s total of 24 home runs.
OTHER OFFENSIVE CATEGORIES
UTEP has scored 93 runs, ranking fourth in Conference USA behind WKU (118), Southern Miss (101) and Middle Tennessee (100), while its tied for fourth with 22 doubles behind WKU (37), UAB (29) and Southern Miss (25). Middle Tennessee and Marshall are the other two schools with 22 doubles. UTEP’s 243 total bases are tied with MT for second in conference, while its slugging (.429) ranks third.
MCKECHNIE SHINING IN HER FIRST SEASON
Kira McKechnie won her staff-leading sixth game after she hurled a career-high 7.0 innings and posting a career-best five K’s during a 1-0 win against East Carolina in Hawai’i.
The junior transfer has been part of four UTEP shutouts. She pitched a pair of complete-game shutouts, the first against Idaho State during a 9-0 win on Feb. 24, while the second was a 7.0-inning effort during a win against ECU. It’s tied for fifth most shutouts during a single season in program history. She was also part of UTEP’s 8-0 no-hitter versus New Mexico and earned her first collegiate win during a 7-0 victory against Saint Mary’s College on Feb. 10.
PITCHING STAFF TOSSING GOOSE EGGS
UTEP has shutout four team thus far in 2018, the first was a 7-0 victory against Saint Mary’s College (Feb. 10), the second was an 8-0 no-hit triumph against New Mexico (Feb. 17), the third was a 9-0 win against Idaho State (Feb. 24) while the fourth was a recent 1-0 victory against East Carolina (March 4). The Miners’ four shutout wins are the most since nine shutouts were chalked up in 2010.
The 2005 and 2008 teams pitched eight shutouts, while the 2007 squad posted seven shutout wins. The 2006 team tallied four. The four shutouts also surpass the three posted in 2016 during the Tobin Echo-Hawk era.
ALLIE’S SOLID RELIEF EFFORT
Sophomore Allie Johnson hit her spots in Hawai’i as she threw 6.0 innings during the weekend and fashioning a 1.17 ERA in the process during three relief appearances. In fact, Johnson lowered her ERA from 21.00 to a 4.00. It was started when she tossed a career-high 5.0 innings against no. 15 Cal, while also tallying a career-best three K’s and allowing only two hits.
SEVENTH NO-NO IN UTEP HISTORY
On Feb. 17, UTEP defeated New Mexico 8-0 in five innings behind a combined no-hitter. It was the first ever combined no-hitter in UTEP history as starting pitcher Devyn Cretz tossed 3.0 and Kira McKechnie threw 2.0 frames and combined for five strike outs and four walks during contest.
It was the first no-hitter since Kaitlin Fifield tossed a complete-game no-no against Texas A&M-CC on Feb. 27, 2016 in College Station. Stacie Townsend (March 18, 2010 at Belmont), Nichole Tunget (Feb. 10, 2008 at Prairie View A&M), Veronica Flournoy (March 10, 2006 vs. Centenary), Megan Barber (Feb. 22, 2005 vs. Howard Payne) and Renee Dipuccio (Feb. 15, 2004 vs. Sul Ross State) each tossed no-hitters during their respective careers.
COURT’S IN SESSION
Courtney Clayton, who was named to the Texas Malihini Aloha Kipa Aloha All-Tournament team after hitting .368, leads the Miners with a .382 batting average, while also pacing the squad in hits (26), runs (17), slugging (.588) and total bases (40), and is tied for the team lead in doubles (four) and at bats (68).
FIRST START IN THE OUTFIELD
Courtney Clayton, who’s started all her games in the infield during her career, made her first start in the outfield playing in left against East Carolina and at Hawai’i on March 4. She tallied six total putouts (three each game) in the pair of starts in left.
FIRST START AT SECOND BASE
Freshman Ilena Santos, who started the first 19 games in left field, made a pair of start at second base against East Carolina and at Hawai’i on March 4. Santos came up with a season-high four assists against ECU during UTEP’s tight 1-0 win, including the final out to clinch the win.