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After a total of 38 runs during Saturday’s doubleheader, UTEP and WKU played seven scoreless frames before the top of the eighth. The Hilltoppers (22-21, 6-9 Conference USA) put up seven runs on seven hits to pull away from the Miners (11-28, 5-10 C-USA), 7-2, in the rubber match on Sunday afternoon at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
UTEP set itself up for a possible walk-off win in the bottom seventh when two runners were on second and third with one out.
Lindsey Sokoloski reached first on an error to lead off the seventh and Mallorie Cross used a sacrifice bunt to advance to Sokoloski to second base. Pinch hitter Mariah Ellis connected a single hit to left, while advancing to second on the throw. The top of the order came around with Kaitlin Ryder at bat with two runners on and one out. Ryder reached on a fielder’s choice as Sokoloski was thrown out, but Ellis advanced to third. Courtney Clayton then grounded out on a 1-1 pitch to end the frame.
In the eighth inning, WKU’s Brittany Vaughn and Kelsey McGuffin each tallied a pair of RBI.
The Miners tacked on two runs in the bottom half.
Kiki Pepi connected on her second hit in an eighth, a one-out single to left and advanced to third on an error by the fielder. Taylor Sargent then drove Pepi home on a ball crushed to deep right center for her second triple in as many days. Pamala Baber followed with a sacrifice fly to center that plated Sargent to make the score 7-2. But after back-to-back singles by Sokoloski and Cross, Ariel Blair grounded out to short to end the contest.
Kaitlin Fifield (2-6) made her second start of the weekend, holding WKU’s bats in the check for the first seven frames. Fifield got out of jams throughout the contest, hurling 7.2 innings and striking out a trio of Hilltoppers – all looking. Fifield worked her way out of bases loaded situation in the third, while finding herself with a pair of runners on second and third in the sixth, but forced back-to-back groundouts to the pitcher’s circle.
Kathryn Downing (12-8), a day after losing game one, threw a complete game victory on Sunday, tallying four Ks and allowing nine hits.
Pepi and Sargent each finished 2-for-4, while Cross produced a 2-for-3 outing. Sargent added her 17th RBI of the season and raised her average to .349 to rank third on the squad. Sargent was hitting .250 after the March 26 contest versus Southern Miss. The junior is hitting a team-best .600 (18-30) the last eight games with 10 RBI and six doubles – both team highs during the stretch.
UTEP is hitting .307 as a team after producing nine hits on Sunday and a total of 30 knocks during the weekend.
UTEP will travel to Ruston to take on LA Tech during Easter Weekend (April 14-15). The Lady Techsters (9-3) stand in first place in the West Division after sweeping UAB this past weekend.
Friday’s doubleheader is set for a 1 p.m. MT/2 CT, while Saturday is set for an 11 a.m. MT/noon CT start.