UTEP and NM State will renew its rivalry as the two programs will play a doubleheader on Tuesday, March 27 in Las Cruces. The two-game set will start at 4 p.m. at the NM State Softball Complex.
The Miners (11-21), after playing nine Conference USA contests, will take a break from league action, while the Aggies (13-14) have yet to play a WAC game, but will start conference action at UMKC on March 30. UTEP will continue C-USA action during Easter Weekend when it hosts UTSA on March 30-31.
UTEP is coming off a three-game set at Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles edged the Miners 3-1 in game two and 4-1 in game three, while taking the first contest 8-0  for the series win. NM State is coming off a 12-7 victory at New Mexico on March 21, while splitting its two contests against Minnesota (G1: 3-0, G2: 0-7) on March 16-17 in Las Cruces.
Senior Courtney Clayton has continued her offensive production, as she hit .556 (5-9) in Hattiesburg, while also tallying a double and her fifth home run of the season. Clayton is currently ranked second in C-USA with a .412 batting average, while her .500 batting average (13-26) in nine league games for a seventh-place ranking.
Ariana Valles produced an RBI with four putouts and five assists in three games started at the shortstop position at Southern Miss. The freshman El Pasoan leads the Miners with 60 assists, while ranking eighth in C-USA.
Pitcher Julia Wright made a pair of starts at USM, tossing 10.0 frames and posting a 2.80 ERA (five runs [four earned]) with a pair of K’s. Wright has hurled the most innings (70.1) to lead the staff, while ranking 16th in C-USA. Kira McKechnie ranks 17th in C-USA with 69.2 innings thrown and ranks 12th with 52 K’s.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. NM STATE
The Miners are 11-34 against the Aggies, as their last matchup came on Feb. 20 at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. NM State won the contest, 8-5, as all its runs were scored with two outs on the board. The Miners recorded 10 hits, led by Courtney Clayton (2-4), Taylor Sargent (2-4) and Pamala Baber (2-4).
Sargent registered a RBI and scored a run during the fourth inning, while Mariah Ellis blasted a three-run home run. Ellis’s dinger was the first of her UTEP career, while it brought the Miners within two runs (6-4) after trailing early 6-0. Ariana Valles doubled that brought Baber home to get within a run.
Sargent drove in the first run during the five-run fourth. The Aggies scored all six runs in the third frame on five hits and two UTEP errors. UTEP answered with five of its own in the fourth on five hits and one NM State error. Devyn Cretz (2.2 IP) made the start, while Kira McKechnie (2.1 IP) and Julia Wright (2.0) made relief appearances.
The trio combined for seven K’s and only three walks (one apiece). Wright and McKechnie each recorded three strike outs. NM State starting catch Nikki Butler went 2-for-4 with three RBI, while connecting on her first long ball of the season – a two-run shot. Kelsey Horton contributed with two RBI, while Victoria Castro drove in a run during the fifth inning.
SCOUTING NM STATE
The Aggies improved to 13-14 after a 12-7 win at New Mexico on March 21. NM State is hitting .300, while outscoring its opponents 148-144. The team has combined for 27 homer runs and 134 RBI. Rachel Rodriguez leads the squad with a .361 batting average (35-97) and stolen bases (7-8). But it’s Kelsey Horton who is making the biggest splash offensively. Horton leads the team in home runs (10) and RBI (28). Horton’s 1.04 RBI/game ranks tied for 46th nationally, while her home runs rank tied for 20th nationally.
The team posts a 4.29 ERA, while Kayla Green (7-7) leads the staff in wins, ERA (3.90), innings pitched (66.1) and games started (12). Samaria Diaz (2-6) leads the staff with 37 strike outs in 54.0 frames thrown. Analise De La Roca (4-1) posts the staff’s only winning record, while fashioning a 4.75 ERA in 45.2 innings tossed. The staff has only combined for 42 walks.
CLAYTON NOW RANKS NO. 2 ON HIT’S LIST
Senior Courtney Clayton added five more hits to her career total and now ranks second on the program’s all-time list with 220. Clayton surpassed Chelsea Troupe’s 219 knocks. Camilla Carrera leads the all-time list with 260.
BACK AT THAT .400 MARK
Courtney Clayton hit .556 at Southern Miss March 24-25, upping her season average to .412. Clayton ranks second in the Conference USA behind UAB’s Destini England (.419 avg.). Clayton hit .416 in 2016, ranking third on the school’s highest single-season batting average.
CC MOVING UP THE HR LIST
Courtney Clayton hit her 23rd career home run, a solo shot in game two at Southern Miss during the fifth inning. Clayton is now tied with current UTEP graduate assistant Kawehiokalani Netane for fifth on the program’s all-time list. Simone Holland (25 HR) ranks fourth, while Stacie Townsend (33 HR) ranks third. Chelsea Troupe (50 HR) and Camilla Carrera (61 HR) are the top two home run hitters in program history.
CC’S GOOD EYE
Courtney Clayton has only struck out once in 97 at bats, ranking fourth nationally in toughest to strikeout, while leading Conference USA in that department. Clayton’s .412 average is ranked second in Conference USA. Clayton is one of 13 student-athletes to have only struck out once with 12 or more at bats.
Clayton has the most at bats in that group, while being one of four to strike out once with 80 or at bats. Three student-athletes lead the list with zero strike outs – Sacramento State’s Zamari Hinton (93 AB), Texas’ Janae Jefferson (87 AB) and Coppin State’s Cayla Brown (42 AB). Clayton has a knack for not striking out as she only struck out eight times in 167 at bats in 2015, nine K’s in 190 at bats in 2016 and only five in 159 at bats last season.
Clayton has only struck out 23 times in 613 at bats (26.7 at bats) during her career.
VALLES’S PRODUCTIVE FIRST SEASON
Ariana Valles chose to play collegiate softball in her hometown of El Paso. The Chapin High School graduate is hitting .288 with 12 RBI (fourth on team), six doubles (second on team) and a triple (t-second on team). Most importantly, the freshman has started all 32 games at the shortstop position, while making nice plays in the field. Valles leads the team with 60 assists, while producing 56 putouts. Valles has also been part of five double plays, ranking 19th in Conference USA.
VALLE’S TOP PERFORMANCES
Ariana Valles has produced solid outings during her first season with the Miners. Valles broke out with a 3-for-4 outing at UNLV, while registering two RBI and scoring a run during UTEP’s 8-7 win over the Rebels.
Valles is tied for the team lead with four multi-RBI games. She tallied two RBI against New Mexico, two against Portland State (Feb. 24) and two more against UAB (March 25). The Miners are 4-0 in those contests in which Valles records two RBI. Defensively, Valles dished out a season-high six assists at UNLV. She produced five against NM State and recorded four assists in three other contests, including the March 25 game at USM.
SMITH DISHING ASSISTS
Cortney Smith is ranked second on the team with 53 assists in 32 games at third base. Smith’s 20 assists in nine Conference USA games rank sixth in C-USA only games. The junior is ranked seventh in the program’s all-time assist’s list with 255 in her career behind Ashley Collazo (269) and Kayla Oranger (289).
UTEP turned its 14th double play of the season during the first inning at Southern Miss on March 25. The Miners lead Conference USA in double plays turned and double plays turned per game (.44). Nationally, the Miners are tied with Troy for 30th in double plays turned per game.
SAVES AT UTEP
Nichole Tunget produced a single-season school record four saves during the 2007 campaign. Julia Wright has three in her first season as a Miner, while Veronica Flournoy (2006) and Kaitlin Fifield (2017) each recorded three.
Tunget holds the career mark with six saves in her two seasons as a Miner (2007-2008), while Fifield ranks second with five saves in her four-year career (2014-17). Wright ranks tied for sixth with two other Miners (Flournoy, Joanna Krienitz) with three career saves. Three Miners have four saves in their careers (Collen Hohman, Stacie Townsend and Renee Dipuccio).