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UTEP Softball to Compete at Texas A&M Invite

The UTEP softball team will take on a trio of teams at the Texas A&M Invitational on Feb. 26-28. The Miners (4-6) will be matched up against Texas A&M-C.C. (7-3) at 9 a.m. MT/10 a.m. CT and Indiana (5-4) at 11:15 a.m./12:14 p.m. on Friday, Texas A&M-C.C. at 9 a.m./10 a.m. and No. 16 Texas A&M (11-1) at 2 p.m./3 p.m. on Saturday, and will conclude the weekend against Indiana at 8 a.m./9 a.m.

Last Weekend

UTEP is coming off a 2-3 weekend at the DeMarini Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. on Feb. 19-21. The Miners shutout UNLV, 6-0 behind senior Danielle Pearson’s first career shutout, while defeating Grand Canyon, 12-5, surged by back-to-back home runs by Hope Moreno and Taylor Sargent to end the weekend classic.

All-Time Series vs. Texas A&M-C.C.

The Islanders won their only contest against the Miners, an 8-0 victory on Feb. 12, 2005 at the Fastpitch Express College Classic in San Antonio, Texas.

Scouting Texas A&M-C.C.

The Islanders are 7-3 headed after a pair of 1-0 victories against Texas A&M-International on Feb. 16, while forging a 2-2 record at the UTSA Classic in San Antonio, Texas. Texas A&M-C.C defeated North Dakota, 11-1 and 2-1, while falling to Virginia, 8-1, and Tulsa, 5-3.

Earlier in the season, two wins were registered against Big Ten program Iowa and Sam Houston State at the Islanders Invitational. Dani Tefft is hitting .333 (11-for-33) with a trio of stolen bases, four RBI and six runs scored. Aspen Auger is hitting .240, but leading the team with two dingers and six RBI. In the circle, Liz Carter (4-2) has a low 1.93 ERA, while dominating batters with 47 Ks in 40.0 innings of action.

All-Time Series vs. Indiana

The series is tied 1-1, as the Miners defeated the Hoosiers, 4-1, on Feb. 13, 2015 at the Wilson/DeMarini Desert Classic in Las Vegas. Kaitlin Fifield earned her first win of her sophomore campaign by pitching her first collegiate complete game. The El Paso native allowed only five hits, one run (unearned) and struck out three. Ashley Eldridge and Hope Moreno each went 3-for-3 with two RBI apiece. Indiana won the only other contest, a 5-2 triumph on Feb. 4, 2005.

Scouting Indiana

The Hoosiers are off to a 5-4 start while recently competing at the Panther Invitational Feb. 19-20. Indiana won three out of four games, falling only to FIU, 5-2, while sweeping University of Delaware twice, 5-2, and 5-0, and Holy Cross, 4-1. The Hoosiers are hitting a .279 batting average with CaraMia Tsirigos leading the team with a .375 average.

Kelsey Dotson has tallied seven RBI to lead the team. Josie Wood was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week after striking out 16 batters and only allowing three earned runs during the Panther Invitational. Wood also leads the Hoosiers with a 2.60 ERA in 35.0 innings.

All-Time Series vs. Texas A&M

The two programs are tangling for the first time ever on Feb. 27.

Scouting Texas A&M

The Aggies are ranked No. 16 in the nation according to the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll and off to a fast 11-1 start. Texas A&M opened the new campaign with a 5-1 victory over No. 7 UCLA. The Aggies’ only loss was to the Bruins, a 7-3 final. Texas A&M went 6-0 at the Mary Nutter Classic (Feb. 19-21) in Cathedral City, Calif., highlighted by victories against No. 16 UCF, 10-4, No. 9 Washington 11-6 and No. 10 Arizona 8-4.

Keeli Milligan leads the squad in home runs (four) and stolen bases (13-for-15) and is hitting .409 (18-for-44). Milligan is also tied for the team lead in RBI (13) with Cali Lanphear, and tied with five other teammates with 10 runs scored. In the circle, Trinity Harrington (3-0) leads the staff in ERA (0.40) in 17.1 innings with 17 Ks, while ace Samantha Show (7-1) has a 2.38 ERA in 47.0 innings, while fanning 47 batters. The Aggies have outscored their opponents 93-39 and is hitting .328 as a team.

Pep in Her Step

Kiki Pepi’s 2016 start is off to a fast one. The junior is hitting .382 (13-for-34) with four home runs, 15 RBI and six runs scored. Pepi leads Conference USA in RBI, while being tied with two other players in home runs. Pepi has already matched her long ball total from 2015, while she’s 10 RBI from matching last season’s total. Her glove has been a Hoover, as Pepi leads the team in assists (23), while also recording eight putouts and most importantly, zero errors.

Pepi produced a money weekend in Las Vegas at the DeMarini Desert Classic hosted by UNLV. She hit .471 with a pair of jacks and eight RBI. During a 6-0 win against UNLV (UTEP’s first ever win against the Runnin’ Rebels), Pepi gave the Miners momentum early, as she slammed a two-run double in the first inning. During a victory against Grand Canyon, Pepi recorded a trio of RBI with a run scored and a walk with bases loaded. The San Diego, Calif., native tied her career high twice in hits with a pair of 3-for-3 games against a pair of Mountain West schools, Nevada and San Jose State, while also hitting a home run against each team.

Rough Ryder

Kaitlin Ryder is leading the Miners with a .483 batting average (14-for-29) and has been walked five times to lead the squad. Ryder’s batting averaged is ranked fourth best in Conference USA. The Chatsworth, Calif., native has chipped in with a home run, seven RBI, two doubles, a triple and eight runs scored (ranks second on the team).

Ryder hit .375 in Las Vegas, with four RBI, a pair of runs and her first-career stolen base against Grand Canyon. Ryder had a nice day against Grand Canyon, tying her career highs in hits (three) and RBI (three) on a 3-for-5 performance. Ryder has seen action in left field and at catcher.

A Rare Road Win

UTEP defeated UNLV, 6-0, on Feb. 19 at Eller Media Stadium. After a 0-19 road record in 2015, the Miners won their first road game since defeating East Carolina on May 4, 2014. The road hasn’t been pleasant for UTEP, as it won 10 road games in 2013 and 2014 combined, while going 0-15 in 2012. The victory also marked the first win on the UNLV home field, since defeating Northwestern State, 12-4, on Feb. 14, 2008 at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic.

Pearson’s Goose Egg

Danielle Pearson pitched a gem against UNLV, shutting down the Runnin’ Rebels to only three hits. But the big story – the senior pitcher threw her first career shutout. The Orlando, Fla., native threw a complete game, only walked two while fanning five batters. The hits allowed wasn’t a career low, but it tied her career low for allowing hits in a complete game start (7.0 innings). Pearson allowed three hits against Southern Miss on March 8, 2014 during a 5-1 victory. Pearson is currently 2-1 with a 4.71 ERA and has 12 Ks to eight walks in 16.1 innings of work. Her other win came against Incarnate Word on Feb. 13 in Las Cruces, N.M., as Pearson tied her career high with six strikeouts in a complete-game triumph. Pearson is ranked no. 3 on the all-time win’s list in program history and is four wins away from tying Kelly Curran for no. 2 on the list.

Court is in Session

Courtney Clayton, who was named to the 2015 All-Conference USA Freshman team, is having a sensational sophomore campaign thus far. The Cornelius, Ore., native is hitting .382 (13-for-34) with a pair of home runs, ranked second on the team with 11 RBI, while leading the squad in runs scored (11) and doubles (four). Her doubles is tied with four other players in Conference USA. Clayton’s .735 slugging is second best on the team. Clayton also established a career high with four hits against Incarnate Word on a 4-for-4 day, while tying her RBI total (four) against the Cardinals. Clayton then tied her career high with three runs scored against Grand Canyon, while setting a career best by walking a pair of times.

Back-Two-Back Jacks in Vegas

Hope Moreno and Taylor Sargent connected on back-to-back home runs in the fourth innings during UTEP’s big 12-5 victory over Grand Canyon on Feb. 21 at the DeMarini Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. It was the first back-to-back long balls since Colleen Hohman and Alanna Leasau did it against Boise State on Feb. 15, 2014 at the Easton Desert Classic in Las Vegas. For Moreno and Sargent, it was their first home runs of 2016. In 2015, the two each connected on a pair of four-baggers.

Getting Hit On

Hope Moreno has been hit by a pitch four times to lead the team, while ranking second in Conference USA in that category. Moreno led the team last season with eight hit by pitches. The school record for being hit by a pitch is 11 times (done by two players), while the second most is nine times (done by two players) and the third being eight times (also done by two players).

Kawehi Coming Around

Kawehiokalani Netane was named to the 2016 All-Conference USA preseason team after a stellar junior campaign (All-C-USA first team). But the Orlando, Fla., native got off to a slow-start her senior season, as Netane entered the DeMarini Desert Classic hitting .091. Netane’s bat fired up, however, in Las Vegas, as she hit .429 (6-for-14) with three runs scored and two doubles. So far on the year, Netane is hitting .280 with five runs scored. She’s also recorded three assists from center field with no errors. Netane’s defense at center has been solid, as she made a spectacular diving catch, running to her right and fielding the ball with her left hand against San Jose State.

Fresh Production

A trio of freshmen has made their presence felt during their young careers. Lindsey Sokoloski is hitting .429 (6-for-14) with five runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base. Sokoloski tallied a pair of hits and a pair of runs against Grand Canyon, both career highs. Ariel Blair, after setting a career best with three hits against Grand Canyon, is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with five runs scored, three walks and a stolen bag. All three of her hits were bunts, as she used her blazing speed to reach first base. Cortney Smith has been the team’s starting shortstop for the last eight games and has registered 14 assists and six putouts. Smith is hitting .313 (5-for-16) with a trio of runs, a walk and a hit by pitch.

Productive Offense

The Miners are hitting .324 as a team, ranking fourth best in Conference USA. UTEP has tallied double digits in hits during four games in 2016. The season high, so far, is 17 knocks against Incarnate Word on Feb. 11, while 16 hits were connected on versus Grand Canyon on Feb. 21. UTEP tallied 11 hits each against Nevada and San Jose State. UTEP hit .290 in 2014 and .293 in 2015 (second best average in program history). The best average during a single season is .303 in 2007.

Reducing Miscues

The Miners have committed 10 errors in 10 games so far in 2016. Last year at this time, the defense committed 14 in its first 10 games. 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.

Author: UTEP Athletics

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