File photo by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post
LAS VEGAS, Nv. – Just hours after UTEP defeated New Mexico behind a combined no-hitter, the Miners (3-6) came up with a huge 8-7 victory over host school UNLV (6-2) on the second day at the Marucci Desert Classic at Eller Media Stadium on Saturday night.
“It was a crazy game, but it’s the kind of games you love,” fifth-year UTEP head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “It was a battle and I think our kids did a nice job. We went ahead and [UNLV] came back and [UTEP] did a nice job of not giving up, continued to fight and our hitters were on it.”
Courtney Clayton, who registered two more hits on the night after getting three against UNM, continued her monster day at the plate when she tripled in Kaitlin Ryder in the first inning to put the Miners on the scoreboard first.
With the score 1-0 heading to the fourth inning, Pamala Baber drew a one-out walk, the first of three for the sophomore. Kacey Duffield followed with her first hit in a UTEP uniform, a double down the right field line. A pair of freshman then gave the Miners a 3-0 lead when Ileana Santos and Ariana Valles used back-to-back RBI singles to score Baber and Duffield.
But the Rebels answered with a four-run fourth and added another run in the fifth to take a 5-3 lead.
The Miners, however, were resilient.
“I told [the team] to keep fighting,” Echo-Hawk said. “We’re a good team and if you keep fighting, things are going to happen and they did. We put the pressure on them and when you put pressure on other teams, it forces them to make mistakes.”
In the top sixth, Baber drew her second walk of the night, while Duffield also walked. Freshman Jordyn Quevedo was inserted as a pinch runner for Duffield. Baber and Quevedo performed a double steal that set up Valles’s second RBI in the contest. She drove a ball down the right line that plated Baber. Then with two outs, Ryder took the first pitch off relief pitcher Janine Petmecky up the middle to center that scored Quevedo and Valles to take a 6-5 lead.
In the top seventh, the Miners tacked on insurance runs. Baber drew her second one-out walk and third overall of the night, Duffield singled to right field and Santos singled to load the bases. Valles then put the ball into play as UNLV’s shortstop Samantha Diaz committed an error that scored Baber. The Miners then took an 8-5 lead when Ariel Blair used a bunt that scored Duffield.
The Rebels made things interesting when Diaz connected on a two-run, one-out home run. The Rebels put two more runners at the corners with two outs, but relief pitcher Devyn Cretz forced a groundout to Valles that put the game in the books.
Cretz (2-2) threw 3.0 innings, walking none and striking out a batter for her second win of the day. Julia Wright made the start and hurled 3.0 frames and tallied two K’s. Kira McKechnie, who was part of that combined no-hitter earlier on Saturday, threw one inning.
The Miners amassed 13 hits, led by Ryder (3-for-5) and Valles (3-for-4). Baber scored three runs and drew three walks, while Duffield (2-for-3) and Santos (2-for-4) each recorded a pair of knocks. Blair registered three hits during the two victories.
Clayton is now 10 RBI away from 100 in her career, ranking eighth on UTEP’s all-time list. She also has 190 career hits, 10 from tying Stacie Townsend for third on the all-time list.
UTEP also turned its seventh double play of the season to end the sixth inning. The victory was the second against UNLV and first since defeating the Rebels 6-0 on Feb. 19, 2016.
UTEP will take on South Dakota on Sunday at 9 a.m. PT/10 MT. The Miners will be the designated ‘home’ team in the contest at the SLC Park.