Softball picks up first wins of the season in Las Vegas

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The UTEP softball team will head to Hawaii for the Bank of Hawaii Invitational Tournament next weekend.

Jason Green, Staff Reporter

The UTEP softball team went to Las Vegas for the Wilson/DeMarini Desert Classic tournament and came back with their first two victories of the season. During prior weekend, the Miners were in Arizona for the Kajikawa Classic, where they lost all five games. After this Desert Classic, the Miners’ record stands at 2-8.

In the first game of the Vegas tournament on Friday, the Miners put on an impressive show of offense to exact a measure of revenge from a team who had defeated them the previous week.

Sophomore pitcher Erika Harrawood started the game against Portland State and allowed four earned runs in the first two innings. Junior Danielle Pearson came in for the final five innings and allowed only one earned run. Pearson became the winning pitcher, following an unbelievable eight-run inning in the top of the seventh that gave the Miners a 8-5 victory.

Head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk was very impressed with the fight in her team.

“It was a great way to finish the game. The great thing is you saw the fight and determination,” Echo-Hawk said. “The thing we always talk about is never giving up and being that scrappy team.”

In Friday’s second game, the Miners’ bats stayed hot and carried the team to their first win over a Big 10 opponent in almost eight years. The Miners defeated the Indiana Hoosiers by a final score of 4-1 as preseason All-Conference USA selection senior Ashley Eldridge pounded out three hits with a double and two runs batted in.

After starting pitching woes plagued the Miners earlier in the day, it was probably a relief for the entire team to see the performance that sophomore pitcher Kaitlin Fifield put on. Fifield pitched a complete game, allowing only one unearned run and striking out three.

Echo-Hawk was very pleased with her young pitcher’s performance.

Kaitlin did an amazing job tonight, setting the tone and getting the outs we needed,” said Echo-Hawk. “It was great to see her have an outing like that.”

In the Miners’ third game of the tournament, the pitching issues returned. Starting pitcher sophomore Taylor Grohmann gave up five earned runs in the first inning to Brigham Young University. Harrawood came in to relieve Grohmann and allowed four more earned runs to the Cougars. BYU’s starting pitcher sophomore McKenna Bull held the Miners to one hit in getting the win for her team.

In the fourth game of the tournament, Pearson was not able to repeat her dominating pitching performance of the day before. The Miners lost 6-3 to the University of Nevada. Pearson allowed five earned runs on eight hits.

The Miners’ usually potent offense was stymied once again as the Miners left nine runners on base. The highlights of this game were two new Miners, sophomore transfer Kiki Pepi and freshman Hope Moreno who both hit their first home runs in the orange and blue.

In the final game of the Desert Classic for the Miners, Fifield once again pitched an outstanding game. Unfortunately, the Miner offense was held scoreless yet again.

The Miners lost 2-0 to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Fifield allowed only two earned runs on seven hits – with six strikeouts. The Miners were held to only four hits by UNLV sophomore pitcher Kwyn Cooper. Cooper struck out three different Miners including leadoff hitter senior Tahla Wade and designated player junior Jade Rodriguez twice.

The Miners may have left Las Vegas with only two victories, but the team showed that they have addressed many problems that plagued them in the previous tournament. The pitching staff as a whole was able to lower its’ earned run average by almost a full two points to 7.34. The Miner bats are still as impressive as they were last season. Junior Kawehiokalani Netane leads the team with a .394 batting average and 13 hits. Freshman Courtney Clayton paces the offense with five runs batted in on the season.

The Miners will head to Hawaii soon to play in the Bank of Hawaii Invitational next weekend. The Miners will take on the home team Hawaii on Friday, Feb. 20 to begin the tournament.

Jason Green may be reached at [email protected]