The UTEP softball team opened the fall season with a hard-fought, come-from-behind 5-4 victory and a 12-2 dominating win in a doubleheader clean up of Odessa College on Sunday afternoon at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
“It was one of those where it’s the first game and I think [the team] was a little tight and a bit nervous,” fourth-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “The good news is, they pulled it out in the end and some people stepped up in key situations.”
Mariah Ellis had a memorable first outing with her new squad, as the transfer from 2016 NCAA Tournament team Longwood University connected on the game-winning RBI single in game one and hit a hard two-run home run in game two.
“[Mariah Ellis] has a ton of power and lots of potential,” Echo-Hawk said. “When she does what she’s supposed to do and stay smooth, good things will happen for her. She crushed that ball at the end of [game one] for that RBI. Her home run was impressive because it was a line shot. I didn’t know if it was going to get out because it was so low. I’m excited for her and excited to add her to our lineup.”
In game one, Odessa College’s Vanessa Muro gave the Wranglers a 2-0 lead on a two-run double in the top third before Kiki Pepi would tie the contest 2-2 with a double of her own in the home half. Taylor Sargent then gave the Miners a 3-2 advantage with a single up the middle following Pepi’s at bat.
The Wranglers tied the game 3-3 in the fourth and took a one-run lead in the next inning. But the relentless Miners would respond after Pepi ended the fifth frame, snagging a lineout from third base with bases loaded.
After a scoreless sixth, Lindsey Sokoloski started the seventh-inning rally with an infield single to the pitcher. Kaitlin Ryder followed with a single but Pepi hit into a double play in which Sokoloski was out at third. With Ryder on at second base with a pair of outs, Sargent tied the contest 4-4 with a single through the left side and would advance to second base on the throw.
The stage was then set for Ellis. She took the first pitch and connected on a sharp and hard single up the middle that scored Sargent for the game-winning run.
Freshman Allie Johnson pitched 4.0 solid innings, striking out seven batters. Erika Harrawood hurled 3.0 frames to earn the victory.
UTEP’s momentum would carry it in game two, as the Miners scored five runs in the first inning and piled on seven more in the fourth frame.
Redshirt freshman Devyn Cretz earned the victory, throwing 4.0 innings and fanning five batters. Taylor Grohmann would finish the contest, tossing 3.0 frames.
During the five-run first, Ellis connected on a line drive two-run home run over right center that gave the Miners a 4-0 lead. The ball looked as if it would fall for a double, but kept sailing and surged over the wall. Sokoloski put her squad up 5-0 with a single that scored Hope Moreno.
In the fourth, with Miners up 5-1, Pepi connected on a one-run double to center that plated Ariel Blair for a 6-1 lead. Blair led off with an infield single, as the sophomore was called safe after blazing to first base. Sargent followed with a single, scoring Linda Garcia to put the Miners up 7-1.
Miranda Gutierrez tallied an RBI on a ground-rule double and Moreno gave UTEP a 10-1 lead on a two-run single. The Miners would score two more runs, as Cortney Smith’s single scored Moreno and Mallorie Cross registered a sac-fly to right that brought Smith across the dish.
Last year, UTEP split a two-game set with Odessa College.
UTEP will continue its fall session with a pair of games on Oct. 8. The Miners will host Sul Ross (12:30 p.m.) and El Paso Community College (3 p.m.). UTEP will then travel to Las Cruces to take on rival NM State on Oct. 9 in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.