The UTEP softball team will take a break from Conference USA action to play a doubleheader at Big 12 program Texas on April 5at Red & Charline McCombs Field. Game one will start at 3:30 p.m. MT/4:30 CT and will be televised on the Longhorn Network. Game two will begin at 7 p.m. CT, but will be replayed at 11 p.m. MT/ Midnight CT.
UTEP is traveling to Austin for the first time since the 2010 season.
The first-place Miners (17-21, 8-4 C-USA) will have their bye week following the Tuesday matchup. They will return to league play at Middle Tennessee on April 16-17. The Longhorns (22-9, 0-2 Big 12) are coming off a 2-1 series win against BYU in Austin (April 1-2).
UTEP is coming off a series win against UTSA on April 2-3. The Miners won the first two contests, 5-3 and 9-2, but dropped the series finale 10-5 against the Roadrunners. The weekend was highlighted by a freshman Lindsey Sokoloski inside-the-park grand slam in game one, which put the Miners up 5-3.
With two victories, UTEP is in sole possession of first place in Conference USA West. The Miners hit .388 during the weekend, led by Hope Moreno’s .600 average. Moreno and Kiki Pepi each tallied five RBI. Pitchers Kaitlin Fifield (6-11) and Danielle Pearson (6-5) each picked up wins as well.
The (RV) Longhorns are coming off a series win against BYU, winning games two (5-0) and three (7-0), but falling in the first contest (3-1). Texas edged Texas State 3-2 on March 30 in Austin.
Texas is 12-3 at home this season and hitting .301 as a team with 23 home runs and 161 runs scored. Lindsey Stephens ranks no. 2 in the Big 12 in batting (.426) and leads her squad in runs (28), home runs (seven), RBI (27) and tied for team lead in stolen bases (7-of-9). Celina Felix is hitting .347 with four jacks and 22 RBI and Reagan Hathaway has four long balls with 20 RBI.
The pitching staff is one of the best in the nation with its 2.07 ERA, led by Tiarra Davis’s (13-7) 1.69 ERA. Davis leads the staff in innings pitched (120.0) and Ks (104). Paige von Sprecken (8-1) has a 2.44 ERA in 63.0 innings with 42 Ks.
All-Time Series vs. Texas
UTEP is 0-7 all-time against Texas and 0-4 all-time in the state capital. The Miners and Longhorns last met on March 10, 2010 in a two-game set in Austin. Texas won both, 9-0 and 6-1. The closest game came on Feb. 28, 2009 in El Paso, as Texas edged UTEP 7-6.
Best Start in League Play
UTEP is off to an 8-4 start in Conference USA action. It’s the best start in program history after 5-4 starts in 2010 and 2015. The Miners are also in first place in the West Division and have the most wins in conference play up to this point. The best a UTEP team has finished was in sixth place in 2008 (10-14 C-USA) and 2010 (11-13 C-USA).
The Miners have never had a winning record in conference play, as the 2010 season saw the most wins tallied. UTEP is looking to advance to the C-USA Tournament for the first time since 2010. The Miners advanced to the championship game in 2009.
More on UTEP’s League Start
After its 10-5 loss to UTSA on April 3, UTEP had won a program-record eight consecutive league contests after sweeping LA Tech (March 19-20) and pulling out the brooms at FIU (March 25-26). Despite the loss at the Roadrunners, the Miners won the series, as they won their third straight league series for the first time in school history.
Since the arrival of Tobin Echo-Hawk, UTEP is 26-34 in Conference USA in three seasons after a 6-64-1 mark the previous three seasons.
A Look at C-USA Standings
UTEP has the most wins (eight), but no. 23 Florida Atlantic (7-2) has the best winning percentage (.778) overall. UAB (6-3) and UTSA (7-5) are second and third respectively, while Southern Miss (5-7), North Texas (3-9) and LA Tech (1-5) round out the West Division. Marshall (6-3) and FIU (7-5) are placed behind FAU in the East.
The bats have been a strong point, as UTEP is leading Conference USA in home runs (34), doubles (54), total bases (481) and at bats (1,004). The Miners rank second in slugging (.479) and hits (319), and rank third in runs (186), batting average (.318) and RBI (162).
The Miners’ .318 batting average ranks no. 39 nationally, while they rank 27th in doubles per game (.47) and 57th in home runs per contest (.89). The Miners blasted five home runs against Incarnate Word on Feb. 11, the most in C-USA in a single game this season.
Heavy Hitting in League Play
In 12 Conference USA games, UTEP leads the way in home runs (13), RBI (62), hits (118), doubles (23), at bats (340) and slugging (.529). The Miners rank second in batting average (.347), runs (67) and on-base percentage (.391).
UTEP turned another double play on April 2 against UTSA. The Miners lead Conference USA in double plays turned (18) and is ranked tied eighth in the nation with five other programs. UCLA leads the way with 27 double plays turned. On March 13, UTEP tied a program record by turning a trio of double plays at Marshall.
The feat as been achieved three other times – the last time being Feb. 13, 2005 against North Texas. Last season, UTEP tied a program record with the 2007 team by registering 21 double plays. The Miners are on pace for about 25 double plays, which would rank no. 1 in school history. The Conference USA record is 32, by the 2009 UCF squad. FIU led the league in 2015 (24 DPs).
UTEP has committed 40 errors during the first 38 games in 2016, nine less than last season at this time. If the Miners keep this pace, they will have committed around 56 errors, which would be the least in program history. The 2007 defense committed only 59 in 2007. The fielding has improved, somewhat, during the last few seasons.
In 2012, UTEP committed 86 errors, while in 2013, 81 miscues were scored. Since Tobin Echo-Hawk and Cristina Cobb-Adams – both infielders in college – arrived to the Sun City, the Miners committed 69 in 2014 and 73 last season. North Texas (16) and UAB (21) are top two teams with the least amount of miscues in 2016.
Born to Assist
The UTEP defense has shown considerable improvement, as it leads Conference USA in assists (354). Nationally, the Miners rank no. 8 in assists. Central Arkansas leads the nation with 421 assists. The Miners are on pace for around 494 assists, which would be the most in school history. The 2015 squad recorded 489, while the 2009 team registered 488.
Pitching in C-USA
UTEP ranks last in Conference USA in ERA, but has shown improvement in league action. The Miners’ 3.95 ERA is ranked eighth in conference, while they lead with 10 complete games. During UTEP’s eight-game conference winning streak, Kaitlin Fifield and Danielle Pearson each recorded four complete games.
Rare Inside-the-Park Grand Slam
Freshman Lindsey Sokoloski accomplished a rare feet against UTSA on April 2. With the Roadrunners leading 3-1 during the sixth in game one, slap-hitter Sokoloski was inserted to pinch-hit with bases loaded.
On the first pitch, Sokoloski made contact putting the ball over the left infield. Not only did it hit a sweet spot on the right side of the left field line, the ball took a wicked bounce past the left fielder in foul territory. By the time the fielder was able to get to it, Sokoloski was halfway down the line to home plate where a mob of Miners was there to greet her.
More on Soko
Lindsey Sokoloski’s inside-the-park grand slam is obviously her biggest achievement in her young career. Sokoloski recorded a career-high four RBI and has made some great contributions. The Magnolia, Texas, native is hitting .279 with eight runs scored and seven RBI.
She registered a career high in hits (two) and runs scored (two) during a 12-5 win over Grand Canyon on Feb. 21, and registered a career-high two doubles during a 16-1 victory over Mount St. Mary’s.
Kawehi’s Bat Coming Alive
Senior outfielder Kawehiokalani Netane struggled the first part of the season. Netane hit .224 (11-for-49) with only one home run and four RBI in 20 games (Feb. 11-March 5). The last 18 contests, Netane is hitting .319 (15-for-47) with six jacks, 15 RBI and 11 runs scored. She also registered a career-high two home runs and six RBI against Mount St. Mary’s on March 5 to begin the 18-game stretch.
Sensational Sophomore Campaign
Courtney Clayton had another great weekend against UTSA, hitting .500 (6-for-12) with three more runs scored. Clayton ranks high in multiple categories in Conference USA up to this point. The sophomore ranks first in doubles (14), and at bats (131), ranks second in hits (54), while ranking fifth in hitting (.412) and in slugging (.649), fourth in runs scored (33), ninth in RBI (28) and second in total bases (85). Clayton has also only struck out eight times in 131 at bats.
Courtney Clayton ranks no. 1 in Conference USA in doubles (14) and is on pace for around 20 in 2016. Clayton is tied with seven other players with the fourth-most doubles in the nation. Camilla Carrera holds the school standard with 19 in 2009.
Ashley Eldridge (2014), Chelsea Troupe (2009) and Ashley Bennett (2005) each tallied 17 – second best in school history. Clayton set her career high with two doubles against Grand Canyon on Feb. 21 and has accomplished the feat two more times (at Marshall on March 12; vs. New Mexico on March 15). East Carolina’s Kate Manuse holds the C-USA single-season record with 26 in 2004.
Sophomore Taylor Sargent’s bat has made a dramatic improvement after hitting .232 in 2015. The native of Albuquerque, N.M., has been drilling doubles, ranking tied third in Conference USA with 10. Sargent ranks fourth on the team in hitting (.318), while connecting on two home runs with 16 RBI and 18 runs scored.
Defensively, Sargent has played first base and right field, pretty much splitting time between the two positions. She ranks second on the team in putouts (138), while ranking tied fifth with seven double plays fielded in C-USA. Sargent also recorded UTEP’s longest hitting streak of 2016, with nine games. Sargent hit .414 (12-for-29) during the streak (March 12-21) with five RBI, five doubles and five runs. She is currently on a five-game hitting streak (March 25-April 3), batting .333 during that span.
Vacuuming at Third Base
Kiki Pepi’s glove has been a Hoover at third base in 2016. The junior set a school record with nine assists at FIU in game one on March 25. The previous record was seven assists; accomplished seven times by six players. Pepi currently ranks second in Conference USA with 90 assists and is on pace for around 126, which would be a program record.
Pepi’s assists are also a game high in C-USA this season, and tied with six other players for third-most nationally. Stacie Townsend holds the program single-season record with 114 in 2009.
Kiki Pepi currently leads the Miners with 35 RBI and ranks second in Conference USA after producing five more against UTSA. Pepi is hitting .320 (39-for-122) with six long balls, 16 runs, nine doubles and a triple. After a 2-for-17 slump (March 4-12), Pepi went on an eight-game hitting streak (March 12-21), hitting .321 with six RBI, a home run, three walks and three runs scored. And after not recording an RBI in six straight contests (March 6-15), Pepi has tallied 13 RBI during the last 11 contests.
More from Moreno
Hope Moreno has seen more playing time as of late, while providing solid fielding and hitting. During her last 12 games (March 15-April 3), the sophomore is hitting .528 (19-for-36) with eight RBI, seven runs, four doubles and a pair of home runs. Her three-run bomb put the Miners up 9-2 in game two against UTSA on April 2.
Moreno also connected on a clutch two-run jack at FIU on March 26 that gave her squad a 6-3 lead. Moreno also recorded 13 putouts in back-to-back games on March 25, while recording 10 more the next day. The previous nine games (Feb. 26-March 12), Moreno hit .238 (5-for-21).
The Ryd Stuff
Kaitlin Ryder has made a dramatic improvement in the batter’s box in 2016. After hitting .241 last season, the sophomore ranks second on the team in batting (.355), while leading in on-base percentage (.459). Ryder also has three home runs, 19 RBI, ranks second on the team in runs (24), while digging out four doubles and a triple.
Ryder has also shown patience at the plate, walking a team-high 20 times, which is ranked fourth in Conference USA.
Fifield Cracks the Win’s List
After winning a contest against UTSA on April 2, junior hurler Kaitlin Fifield won career-game no. 17 and moved to no. 5 on the all-time win’s list in program history with Colleen Hohman and Megan Barber. Nichole Tunget is ranked no. 4 with 18 triumphs.
4 Wins in 4 Starts for Pearson
Danielle Pearson had won four consecutive starts for the first time in her career, after notching victories against LA Tech on March 19 and 20, and picking up wins at FIU (March 25) and against UTSA (April 2). Pearson was part of a no-decision against UTSA on April 3.
Pearson Wins Game no. 24
Danielle Pearson won her 24th-career game on April 2 against UTSA. The senior from Orlando, Fla., is tied with Kelly Curran for no. 2 on the all-time list in program history. Stacie Townsend leads the all-time list with 64 victories.