IRVING, Texas – For the first time since 2008 and second time in program history, a trio of UTEP softball players were named to the All-Conference USA team.
Utility player Kaitlin Ryder, and infielders Taylor Sargent and Cortney Smith were announced to the second team as voted by the league’s 12 head coaches on Tuesday.
Ryder, Sargent and Smith each established career highs in respective categories during the 2017 campaign. Ryder set her career best with a .354 batting average, which ranked second on the team, while Smith led the Miners with career highs in batting average (.364), home runs (eight), slugging (.636) and on-base percentage (.438). Sargent led the squad with a career-high three triples, ranked fourth on the team with a career-best .326 average and recorded a career-high 19 RBI.
Ryder came up with big moments during the season as the junior racked up a career-high five RBI during UTEP’s 12-2 (5) triumph against Southern Miss. She also connected on a career-high two home runs at Incarnate Word to lead the Miners in an 11-3 (5) victory. The Chatsworth, Calif., native ranked second on the team in long balls (five) and RBI (28). She added 22 runs, seven doubles and a triple. Ryder played 31 contests in the outfield and 16 games behind the plate.
Sargent, who was hitting .250 after March 26, picked up the pace and finished with that career-high .326 average. The Albuquerque, N.M., native lit up the stat sheet the last 17 games of the season by hitting .429 (24-56) with 12 RBI, seven doubles, three triples, two stolen bags and eight runs. The junior set a career high with three RBI at UTSA (April 2) and crossed the dish a career-most three times during a 10-2 (6) win against WKU.
During UTEP’s epic 10-inning victory at UTSA, Sargent finished the 3-for-6 with a double and a RBI, along with 11 putouts at first base.
Smith returned her sophomore season, providing power to the lineup with her team-leading eight dingers. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native also established career marks in runs (26), hits (47), doubles (nine), triples (one) and RBI (22). Smith led the Miners past powerful Utah State, 8-5, when she connected on a career-best two home runs, a pair of solo shots. Smith recorded a career high three hits two times during the season, the first came on a 3-for-4 outing, while also tying her career most with three RBI at UC Riverside, and the second came on a 3-for-3 effort with a career-best three runs during a 12-2 (5) victory against Southern Miss.
Sargent and Smith were the backbone behind UTEP’s 30 double plays turned in 2017. Sargent led the team with 15 double play, while Smith ranked tied second with 12. Ryder contributed to one of the double plays behind the plate. The Miners’ 30 double plays led C-USA and ranks tied third nationally. UTEP’s .63 double plays turned per game ranks second in the nation.
For Sargent and Smith, it’s their first accolade as Ryder was named to the All-C-USA Preseason team on Jan. 18. Ryder was also named the team’s MVP at Dinner with the Miners on April 27. The 2008 squad saw two first teamers in Camilla Carrera and Stacie Townsend, and second team pick Amber Bennett.
In 2015, a trio of Miners earned postseason awards as Kawehiokalani Netane was named first team, Ashley Eldridge was recognized to the second team and Courtney Clayton was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team.