MIAMI, Fla. – Florida native Kawehiokalani Netane, Hope Moreno and Taylor Sargent each recorded two RBI, and starting pitcher Kaitlin Fifield won her second consecutive game in as many days, as the UTEP softball team rallied to beat FIU, 6-4, on Saturday at Felsberg Field at FIU Stadium.
“They just kept fighting and you could just tell their attitude in the dugout and everything about them was we’re going to win this game,” third-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said.
The Miners (15-20, 6-3 Conference USA) extended their program-best six-game conference winning streak. UTEP took two from the Panthers (18-17, 4-5 C-USA) on Friday. The league series sweep on the road was also the second-ever in program history. The Orange and Blue took a three-game set at LA Tech in 2014.
“I can’t say enough about these kids,” Echo-Hawk said. “I’m so proud of them. They knew we hadn’t won on the road and they could’ve have easily won that first one and then taken a step back. But they got a taste of what it felt like to win the first and wanted to take them all.”
After Friday’s 2-1 game one victory, the Miners ended a 15-game league road losing streak dating back to last season.
Fifield (5-10) pitched her second straight complete-game victory, hurling 7.0 frames. Fifield got help, as the defense turned two double plays. The Miners have a league-best 17 double plays turned in 2016.
After a 1-2-3 first inning to start the contest, Fifield ran into trouble in the second. Fifield allowed four consecutive singles, as Kaitlyne Musa’s single plated Gabby Spallone, who led off the inning with a knock.
After the Miners forced two outs at home plate, Aleima Lopez drove a pair of runs to give her squad an early 3-0 advantage.
“Kaitlin [Fifield] did a nice job after giving up those three runs,” Echo-Hawk said. “They buckled down and we made some great defensive plays. We turned two double plays; it doesn’t get better than that.”
After a scoreless third on both sides, Netane got the Miners right back into the game.
After the Panthers forced two quick outs to open the fourth frame, Florida native Danielle Pearson singled through the left side to set up her high school teammate (Cypress Creek High School in Orlando). Netane took an inside 3-1 pitch and railed it over leftfield, bringing her squad within a run at 3-2. It was Netane’s sixth jack of the season and second in as many days.
The bats kept fire in the fifth, as the Miners scored four more run with two outs. Courtney Clayton connected on a one-out single, her third of the contest, and Kaitlin Ryder was hit by a pitch. The next hitter struck out, but Sargent gave the Miners a 4-3 lead, as she drilled a double, her 10th, to right center, plating Clayton and Ryder.
Hope Moreno followed with a long ball of her own, as she took the first pitch and lined it down the left field line. It was Moreno’s third home run of the season.
“That spark from Sarge [Taylor Sargent] was big because she didn’t have a great weekend,” Echo-Hawk added. “When a kid struggles a little bit and gets up there and rips one – it’s obviously a positive thing. She has a great mindset, forgetting the past and focusing on that at bat that you’re having right there; she did a great job.”
With UTEP up 6-3, FIU slugger Stephanie Texeria connected on a two-out solo shot in the bottom fifth. But Fifield didn’t let it faze her, as she forced the third out to end the frame.
Fifield, during the next two innings, would allow three hits and a walk, but the Panthers would leave runners stranded. In the seventh, FIU got its two leadoff hitters on, as Jackie Schoff and Ashley Leon used consecutive singles for the game tying runs. But a pair of fly outs and a fielder’s choice secured the sweep.
Fifield got help defensively, as Lopez hit into a double play to second baseman Clayton, turning the 4-6-3 double play in the sixth. The defense turned its first double play during the fourth on an unassisted out at second base by shortstop Cortney Smith and throwing out Lopez at first.
Smith recorded a career-high seven assists and Moreno tallied 10 putouts after back-to-back 13-putout performances on Friday. Fifeld registered five assists and the offense tallied nine knocks, led by Clayton’s 3-for-4 performance.
UTEP will host UTSA (12-20, 6-3 C-USA), as first place is on the line in the West Division. The Miners and Roadrunners will open the three-game set on Saturday at 1 p.m., while Sunday’s series finale is moved to11:30 a.m. UTSA dropped two of three to Middle Tennessee this past weekend.