IRVING, Texas – UTEP softball juniors Courtney Clayton and Kaitlin Ryder were selected to the 2017 Conference USA Preseason team on Wednesday as voted by the league coaches.
It’s the first time since 2010 in which a pair of Miners (Camilla Carrera and Chelsea Troupe) were voted to the preseason squad.
Clayton, the 2016 C-USA Player of the Year, hit .416 (third best average in program history) and set a pair of records last season. The Cornelius, Ore., native tallied a program-record 21 doubles and racked up a single-season best 79 hits. Clayton led the team in runs scored (45), connected on seven home runs and ranked second on the team in RBI (35).
Clayton also led the squad in slugging (.658), on-base percentage (.438), triples (two) and total bases (125). Defensively, Clayton recorded the second-most assists (119) during a single season in program history.
Ryder saw much success in 2016 as this is her first on-field accolade. The Chatsworth, Calif., native ranked second on the team with a .350 batting average after hitting .241 her freshman season. Ryder’s patience at the plate was evident after leading the team and ranking in the top 10 in C-USA with 23 walks. Ryder ranked second on the squad in runs scored (31), slugging (.521), on-base percentage (.437) and tied second in hits (57).
Ryder hit six dingers and grinded out eight doubles, including a triple.
The efforts of both student-athletes helped surge the Miners into the C-USA Tournament for the first time since 2010, while the program fashioned its first ever winning league record (13-11) in 2016. During the first round of the postseason, UTEP rallied to defeat FIU, 5-4, for its first postseason victory since 2009.
After the Miners found themselves down 4-2 against the Panthers, Ryder came up with a clutch, three-run home run in the fifth inning. Ryder finished the contest 2-for-3 with four RBI (career high), while Clayton went 1-for-3 and was on base when Ryder went deep.
The 2017 season will commence in Tempe at the Kajikawa Classic against a pair of Pac-12 programs. The Miners will open against Stanford and host school Arizona State on Feb. 9.