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Softball loses battle of I-10

Jason Green

The New Mexico State Aggies used an eight run sixth inning to defeat the visiting Miners by a final score of 12-6.

A mistake by the Aggies – a failure to cover second on a potential double play in the top of the sixth– lead to a much needed insurance run for the Miners. However, several mistakes in the bottom of the sixth by the Miners would allow the Aggies to put up eight runs and win the game.

Heading into the battle of I-10, UTEP head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk knew that whichever team avoided the big mistakes was going to come away with the victory.

“Getting two runs ahead in that sixth inning – that was a big thing. But, with a team like this that hits the way they do you just have to be prepared no matter what. You can never just think you have it in the bag, cause they’re gonna keep coming at you,” said Echo-Hawk.

Sophomore pitcher Kaitlin Fifield battled the Aggies number one starter  – junior Karysta Donisthorpe who came into the game with a 2.68 earned run average – and for a while it looked like she was going to come out on top. Despite giving up a first inning three run home run, Fifield pitched four more innings without giving up an earned run.

UTEP was able to chase the Aggies’ number one starter in the fourth inning after two home runs and a run scoring double by freshman Hope Moreno.

Echo-Hawk was pleased with Fifield’s performance but felt that a tight strike zone by home plate umpire Geri Magwire affected her young pitcher.

“I think that she got a little frustrated. She let the umpire’s zone get to her a little bit. When you’re doing that you start to stiffen a little bit and you don’t really stay on your game plan,” said Echo-Hawk. “She just needs to do a better job of staying on her game plan regardless of what the umpire’s strike zone is like.”

The partisan NMSU crowd – speckled sparingly with UTEP supporters – came to life only after Fifield gave up a walk to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.

An error at shortstop by junior Kawehiokalani Netane – which was ruled a hit by the NMSU scorer – allowed two runs to score and bring the score to 6-6. Fifield continued to struggle with finding the strike zone and once again loaded the bases with a walk before giving up a grand slam to Aggie leftfielder Malena Padilla.

Echo-Hawk was unhappy with her team – rather  than her pitcher – following  the game.

“Having them score eight runs with two outs is not ok. We should have made plays and we didn’t. We told them before the game that they’re going to hit the ball hard and to be expecting it,” said Echo-Hawk.

Much like last week’s close losses to #25 University of Alabama-Birmingham, Echo-Hawk was able to find plenty of good in tonight’s tough loss.

Freshman catcher Kaitlin Ryder caught two base stealers and hit one of the Miners’ three home runs. Junior Danielle Pearson hit her first home run – not just for UTEP, but at any level.

More than anything, Echo-Hawk was happy with the fight that her team put up.

“There’s a lot of good – they kept going at them – especially getting down early 3-0. They could have laid over and just let the game happen but, they fought back. If you end the game in the fifth inning we’re fine. But, you’ve got to play all seven,” said Echo-Hawk.

On April 28th, NMSU travels down I-10 to play a double-header at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex. Echo-Hawk feels that her team is primed for revenge and is looking forward to the upcoming games at home against the Aggies.

“I think that will be a whole different feel – a whole different ball game. Now they kind of know what to expect. It’s a lot different when you’re playing at home,” said Echo-Hawk.

The Miners return to their home field on March 28th for a Conference USA battle with Southern Mississippi. The teams will play two on Saturday beginning at 2pm.

Jason Green may be reached at [email protected].

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Softball loses battle of I-10