MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Linda Garcia slammed a two-run home run and Kaitlin Fifield hurled a complete-game victory, as UTEP defeated Middle Tennessee 7-2 in game one, but fell in game two 9-3 despite three solo home runs on Saturday at the Middle Tennessee Softball Field on Saturday.
The Miners (18-24, 9-5 Conference USA) are tied with UAB (19-23, 9-5 C-USA) in the West Division, in which the Blazers won both their contests on Saturday against FIU. The Blue Raiders (23-20, 6-8 C-USA) chalked up their first-ever victory against the Miners. UTEP leads the short series 7-1.
With the game one triumph, UTEP has matched its 2015 C-USA win total. The Miners have also tallied 18 wins overall, the most in five seasons.
UTEP 7, MTSU 2
UTEP jumped on Middle Tennessee, going up 3-1 after three innings. Courtney Clayton led off the contest with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, while getting the third on a groundout. Kiki Pepi drove Clayton home on a double, putting the Miners up 1-0.
After the Blue Raiders tied the score, the Miners answered with a pair of runs in the second inning. Garcia led off the inning with a single, followed by a Cortney Smith single. Jade Rodriguez loaded the bases, as she reached on an error. Clayton then singled in Garcia, while Ryder tallied an RBI, scoring Smith on a fielder’s choice.
In the fourth, Ryder singled with two outs, setting up Pepi. The junior put the Miners up 4-1 on her second double of the game, plating Ryder.
The big knock came when Garcia connected on a 1-0 pitch, sending the ball over center to put the Miners up 6-1. Kawehiokalani Netane was on base, as she had singled with one out.
With the score 6-2, Moreno put the nail in the coffin with a single that brought Pepi across the dish.
Fifield (7-12) won her four game in her last six starts, throwing 7.0 frames. Fifield allowed six hits, two runs (one earned) and walked only one. Fifield improved to 5-3 in C-USA contests.
Garcia tied her career high in hits on a 3-for-4 day, scoring two runs and tallying two RBI. Pepi went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI and a run, while Clayton finished 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run.
The Miners recorded 13 hits in game one.
UTEP 3, MTSU 9
The Blue Raiders scored four quick runs in the first inning. But the Miners answered with a trio solo home runs.
Garcia and Smith connected on back-to-back long balls in the second inning. It was Garcia’s second of the day and fifth of 2016. Garcia planted it over left on the first pitch. Smith hit her second of her young career, a line drive on a 2-2 count down the leftfield line.
In the fourth, Netane brought her squad within a run after she connected on her team-leading eighth long ball of the season and 23rd of her career. The senior is now ranked fifth on the all-time list by herself and is two away from moving to no. 4 with Simone Holland.
But Middle Tennessee answered in the bottom half, scoring three runs and adding one each in the next two frames.
UTEP tallied 11 hits, as Garcia and Smith each went 2-for-3, and Clayton and Ryder each went 2-for-4.
UTEP and Middle Tennessee will play the series finale on Sunday, starting at 12 p.m. CT/11 a.m. MT.