LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Hope Moreno and Taylor Sargent blasted back-to-back home runs, and Taylor Grohmann and Kaitlin Fifield combined to limit Grand Canyon’s potent offense, as UTEP claimed a 12-5 victory on the last day at the DeMarini Desert Classic on Sunday afternoon.
After yesterday’s poor performance, third-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk had an intense talk with the team prior toSunday’s contest.
“I said we need to change our mentality,” she said. “We have to find a way to win. They don’t necessarily know how to win, but it starts with how they prepare and how they take their pregame and focusing on the little things. Really focusing on changing things and making key adjustments.”
The Miners (4-6) used a five-run second inning to jump out on the Antelopes (9-3) to gain a commanding 6-0 lead. The Orange and Blue got on the board first in the top of the first inning, as Kaitlin Ryder singled through the left side on a 1-1 pitch that scored Courtney Clayton.
“Right from the start, they came out like I’ve never seen them. It was awesome,” Echo-Hawk said.
During the second frame, Kawehiokalani Netane used a lead-off double down the left field line to start the scoring parade. Netane would cross the dish later on a wild pitch after Cortney Smith used a sac bunt to advance her teammate to third. With bases loaded, Kiki Pepi walked on a four-pitch walk, scoring Lindsey Sokoloski. Ryder drove in two more runs, plating Clayton and Ariel Blair, while an error on the left fielder advanced Ryder to second and Pepi across the dish.
The Miners tacked on two more runs in the third, as Clayton drove home Netane on a double to deep center and Pepi reached on a fielder’s choice that brought home Smith.
In the fourth, Sargent and Moreno connected on back-to-back jacks, their first long balls of 2016. Last season, Moreno hit her first career home run in Las Vegas.
“(The back-to-back home runs) was kind of the dagger that propelled us over the hump because we were still in a close game in some sense that we couldn’t necessarily relax,” Echo-Hawk said. “I think those home runs gave us a bit of breathing room.”
While the bats were one fire, the pitching iced the Antelopes. Grohmann (2-1) earned her second win of 2016, while Fifield earned her first save of the season.
“(Grohmann) did a great job,” Echo-Hawk said. “Her changeup was really working and we knew they struggled with the changeup. She kept the ball low and did what she needed to do even with runners in scoring position and got big outs. No matter how you get (outs), just get them. And Kaitlin (Fifield) coming in and finishing the game, it was a nice change of pace.”
The two hurlers allowed 10 hits and only walked three against an offense that had been producing runs in bunches during the young campaign. Though Fifield allowed a pair of runs in the bottom seventh with bases loaded, the junior forced a groundout to end the contest, while the defense made key plays, including throwing out a base runner at home.
Blair, a freshman from Hanks High School, established a career-high three hits on a 3-for-4 day. The native of El Paso used her blazing speed to reach base on a trio of bunts. Pepi recorded three RBI, while Clayton tied a career high with three runs scored on a 2-for-3 afternoon and a pair of RBI. Ryder tied her career best in hits (three) and RBI (three) on a 3-for-5 performance. Sokoloski set a career high with a pair of knocks, while tying a career best with two runs scored. Netane also tied her career best with a trio of knocks on a 3-for-4 day and scoring two runs.
Defensively, Moreno tallied 11 putouts and Clayton registered five assists.
UTEP will compete at the Texas A&M Invitational on Feb. 26-28 in College Station. The Miners will take on Texas A&M-C.C. (9 a.m. MT) and Big 10 program Indiana (11:15 a.m.) on Friday, Texas A&M-C.C. (9 a.m.) and Southeastern Conference power Texas A&M (2 p.m.) on Saturday, and will close the weekend with another contest against Indiana (9 a.m.) on Sunday.
Author: UTEP Athletics