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After its series win against Middle Tennessee, the UTEP softball team will host Conference USA West Division foe Southern Miss March 25-26. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. to begin Saturday’s doubleheader, while Sunday’s contest will start at 11 a.m. at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
The Miners (7-19, 2-4 C-USA), after a slow start in league action, rebounded last weekend as they won two of three games against Middle Tennessee at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. It’s the second season in a row in which the Miners will host back-to-back conference weekends. Last season, UTEP split its six contests, losing three to UAB, but coming back strong with a sweep against North Texas to clinch a spot in the C-USA Tournament.
“It’s always nice to be at home no matter if it’s the beginning, middle or end of the season, we just feel more comfortable and confident playing at home,” fourth-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said.
UTEP is 19-8 in C-USA contests at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex since 2015 and 24-15 since 2014.
The Golden Eagles (14-14, 1-5 C-USA) halted a four-game losing streak after edging South Alabama, 2-1, on March 22 in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles have lost six of the last nine games, which includes being swept against LA Tech March 18-19 and losing two of three at UAB March 11-12.
It’s a big series for both squads as each stand in the C-USA West Division. Last season, Southern Miss finished 14-10 to earn the no. 3 seed in the C-USA Tournament. UTEP was a no. 6 seed with a 13-11 league record.
“You know, it’s a big series for a lot of different reasons,” Echo-Hawk said. “If you look at our record against them last season, they kind of had our number and I think that’s a motivational factor. It’s also one of those series where the further you get into conference play, it’s nice to have those wins against teams in our division, and actually matter as far as seeding goes [for the C-USA Tournament]. We’re very similar with our records, so it’s important to win at least two of the three to win the weekend.”
Last season the two programs met four times in five days. Southern Miss won three contests in Hattiesburg, 3-0, 3-0 and 6-4 May 7-8. The two squads met again in the C-USA Tournament in Denton on May 11, with the Golden Eagles topping the Miners, 10-4.
UTEP will continue its home stretch when I-10 rival NM State heads to the Sun City for a doubleheader onMarch 28, starting at 5 p.m.
SCOUTING SOUTHERN MISS
The Golden Eagles are heading to the Helen of Troy this weekend with an overall record of 14-14. Southern Miss has tallied one conference win, which came against UAB, 10-4, on March 12. Last weekend they fell short all three games of the series to LA Tech, with game two going into 14 innings and finally ending at a 4-2 loss.
As a team, the Golden Eagles are hitting a total of .239 to rank 10th in Conference USA. Senior Lauren Holifield leading the line up with a .291 average, five home runs and 14 RBI. The pitching staff has totaled an ERA of 2.41 to rank fourth in C-USA. Junior Kim Crowson is producing the most success, as she has fashioned a 1.50 ERA to rank third in C-USA.
Crowson leads the staff in wins (six) and strikeouts (40) – ranks no. 12 in Ks in C-USA. Southern Miss ranks last in C-USA in runs (92), slugging (.328), home runs (12) and total bases (238). The Southern Miss pitching staff, however, ranks third in opposing batting average (.240) and fifth in least hits allowed (185).
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. SOUTHERN MISS
UTEP is 15-17-1 all-time versus Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have won the last four contests, which included a sweep in Hattiesburg last season and a second-round victory at the Conference USA Tournament on May 11.
UTEP and Southern Miss have spit the last six contests at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. The Golden Eagles took two of three contests in 2014, while the Miners returned the favor and won the series 2-1 in 2015. Southern Miss is 7-12 all-time at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
UTEP defeated Middle Tennessee twice during the March 18-19 series. The Miners won game one, 7-6, behind Kaitlin Ryder’s three-run home run and Erika Harrawood’s solid performance in the circle. Harrawood threw 6.1 innings, walked none, and struck out four batters. UTEP got tripped up in game two, but came back to win the series with a 10-7 win in weekend finale.
Middle Tennessee went up 5-0 in the first, but UTEP chipped away and scored 10 unanswered run the first four frames.
Courtney Clayton, Pamala Baber and Cortney Smith each recorded a pair of RBI in the series clinching victory. After Middle Tennessee went up 5-0 in the first frame, Devyn Cretz (4.0 IP) and Kaitlin Fifield (2.2 IP) kept the Blue Raiders’ bats in check, allowing only two runs on seven hits the next six innings. Cretz earned the win, while Fifield recorded her second save of the season.
UTEP rallied from a 5-0 deficit on Sunday to defeat Middle Tennessee 10-7. The March 19 rally tied as the second-biggest come-from-behind victory in a conference game in program history, while it’s tied for fifth largest comeback in any contest in school history. UTEP rallied from 5-0 down to Colorado State after the top first to win 9-8 on Feb. 28, 2015 in Tucson, Ariz.
Earlier that season, the Miners scored eight runs in the top seventh to defeat Portland State, 8-5, in Las Vegas, Nev. on Feb. 13, 2015. The largest conference rally came against Southern Miss on March 10, 2012 in El Paso. The Miners were down 7-0 heading to the bottom first and rallied to win 13-12.
MOST RUNS, RBI & HITS COMBINED FOR IN A C-USA GAME
On March 19 UTEP and Middle Tennessee combined for the most runs (17), RBI (17) and hits (25) during a Conference USA only game up to this point of the season. The Miners banged out 13 hits during the 10-7 victory. The Miner and Blue Raiders also combined for the most stolen bases (five) during a conference only game.
GAME 3 RUNS & HITS VS. MT
UTEP clinched the series against Middle Tennessee with a 10-7 victory on March 19. The Miners tied their season highs in hits (13) and runs (10) during the victory. UTEP defeated Siena 10-2 (5) on Feb. 24, while connecting on 13 hits at New Mexico during a 7-4 triumph on March 8.
MOST RUNS/HITS DURING ECHO-HAWK ERA
During the Tobin Echo-Hawk era, the Miners’ single-game high is 17 hits on Feb. 11, 2016 against Incarnate Word, while the most runs scored was a 16-run output against Mount St. Mary’s on March 5, 2016. The hits (17) are ranked tied eighth in program history, while the runs scored is tied ninth.
With UTEP’s 2-1 series win against Middle Tennessee on March 19, the Miners improved to 10-2 against the Blue Raiders all-time. UTEP is also 8-1 all-time versus MT at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. The Miners, in 12 games played against the Blue Raiders, are hitting .394 (137-348) with 18 long balls. UTEP has outscored MT 88-51 during that span.
After hitting .226 the first nine games of the season, the UTEP bats have caught fire, hitting .323 (153-473) during the last 17 contests. The Miners are currently ranked fifth in Conference USA with a .292 overall batting average (204-699). Marshall leads the league with a .317 batting average, while FIU (.312), UTSA (.303) and LA Tech (.299) round out the list. UTEP’s 204 hits rank sixth. FIU leads the league with 263 knocks.
DIGGING OUT TRIPLES
UTEP tallied its sixth triple of 2017 in game two against Middle Tennessee. UTEP is ranked tied fourth with Charlotte in Conference USA with six three-baggers. LA Tech leads the pack with 10, while UTSA and Marshall ranks tied second with seven apiece.
UTEP has struck out 103 times in 699 at bats to rank ninth in Conference USA. Three Miners have kept their Ks low as Lindsey Sokoloski has whiffed only once in 75 at bats to rank first in C-USA and eighth nationally in toughest to strikeout. Courtney Clayton has struck out twice in 89 at bats to rank second in C-USA and 48th nationally.
Taylor Sargent has left the plate looking for swinging five times in 73 at bats to rank fifth in C-USA and tied no. 140 in the nation.
Kaitlin Ryder came up with a big weekend, producing six RBI and hitting .444 (4-9) during the series win against Middle Tennessee. During UTEP’s game one victory over the Blue Raiders, Ryder connected on her second home run of the season, a three-run shot over left in the second inning that put the Miners up 4-0.
Ryder is hitting .409 (9-22) with seven RBI the last seven contests. Overall, the junior is hitting .304 with two dingers and 13 RBI.
Kaitlin Fifield recorded her second save of 2017 after recording one against Middle Tennessee on March 19 in 2.2 innings of work. Fifield entered the contest with bases loaded and one out in the fifth with the Miners leading 10-5. The Blue Raiders only crossed the dish twice to get within three runs while Fifield only allowed one hit and walked no batters the next 2.0 innings.
Fifield recorded her first save of the season against Utah State on Feb. 24. Fifield is ranked tied first with five other players in Conference USA and tied no. 23 nationally. Fifield has four saves in her career to rank tied second on the program’s all-time saves’ list with four other players.