After a two-game split at New Mexico, the UTEP softball team will open Conference USA play at North Texas March 11-12. Saturday’s doubleheader is scheduled to start at noon MT/1 CT, while Sunday’s series finale is set for noon MT in Denton Texas.
After the North Texas series, the Miners will finally return to the Sun City to start a string of eight consecutive home contests (five home dates). UTEP will host C-USA foes Middle Tennessee (March 18-19), Southern Miss (March 25-26) and a doubleheader against I-10 rival NM State in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 (March 28).
UTEP split a two-game set at New Mexico on March 8. The Lobos rallied off D’Andra DeFlora’s three-run home run in the sixth inning to down the Miners 7-6. Pamala Baber broke out with her first career long ball, a crushing shot over left on a first-pitch swing. In game two, New Mexico would tie the game 4-4 after back-to-back home runs in the sixth.
But the Miners would respond with three runs in the seventh, a Macey Browntwo-run double and a Mallorie Cross sacrifice fly to center that secured a 7-4 victory.
The seventh inning got started when Kiki Pepi led off with her second career triple. Ariel Blair was inserted as a pinch runner for Pepi that led the Cross’s sac-fly RBI. Baber crossed the dish four times, tying for second during a single game on the all-time list. The Miners hit .381 (24-63) which included a season-high 13 knocks in game two. Baber hit .800 with two home runs and three RBI.
Prior to the trip the Albuquerque, UTEP won a game at the Texas Tech Invitational, defeating Wichita State, 6-1, on March 5.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. NORTH TEXAS
North Texas leads the all-time series 8-4, but have dropped its last three contests to UTEP. The Miners swept the Mean Green at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex April 30-May 1. The series clean up secured a spot in the 2016 Conference USA Tournament that was held in Denton, Texas.
UTEP outscored North Texas 19-11 in the three wins, while hitting .368 (32-87), six home runs and eight doubles. Courtney Clayton led the way with a .545 batting average along with a pair of doubles (registered school-record 20th double on May 1).
Kaitlin Ryder hit .500 with a home run and four RBI, and Taylor Sargent hit .400 with two solo home runs.Kaitlin Fifield picked up a pair of victories in the series (2.40 ERA, 11.2 IP, 0 BB, 7 K). UTEP is 0-4 all-time at North Texas, but did pick up a victory against FIU on the Mean Green field at the 2016 C-USA Tournament.
The Miners were swept in the three-game series May 2-3, 2015. North Texas won those contests, 12-4 (6), 9-3 and 14-6 (6).
SCOUTING NORTH TEXAS
The Mean Green will be heading into their first conference face off against the Miners with an 11-9 record for their preseason games. This past weekend North Texas also competed in Lubbock and although it did not face the Miners, the Mean Green took two wins from Wichita State, 7-2 and 14-10, and split with Texas Tech losing the first game 6-5 and winning the second one 12-11.
The Mean Green also had a big win against no. 15 Baylor, beating them 3-2 earlier in the season. They have been pretty solid all the way through their hitting line up, recording a .277 average as a team. Senior Kelli Schkade is currently leading the team with a .378 average, 28 hits, three home runs and 12 RBI.
Schkade also has only tallied four strikeouts out of her 74 at bats. Lacy Gregory (.333 avg.) has amassed 19 RBI (team leader) and has connected on a team-best four home runs. Harley Perella is tied for second with Schkade in RBI (12) and home runs (three). The Mean Green pitching staff currently has an ERA of 4.41, with senior Stacey Underwood (6-3) coming out of top with a 2.71 ERA and leads the staff in wins. Underwood has has struck out 43 batters in 62.0 innings, while walking 23.
The staff has walked 58 batters in 135.0 innings this season. North Texas has been outscored 105-87, while hitting 15 dingers on the season.