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Softball faces crucial home series

Ruby Cerino
Sophomore Hope Moreno throws towards first base after getting an out at second.

UTEP softball is preparing to honor the teams’ seniors when they welcome Marshall for a three-game series.

Senior Day is always a big deal for any UTEP team, but this weekend is possibly even bigger for seniors Ashley Eldridge and Tahla Wade. Neither player has appeared in the Conference-USA Tournament during their time at UTEP.

This season the Miners are 8-10 in C-USA play heading into the second-to-last conference series of the season and only a half game out of the last tournament slot.

“I like to look at that stuff (standings) just because I want to see if it’s possible for us to make it to the conference tournament,” Eldridge said. “In order for us to make it to the conference tournament we have to at least win one or two, if not three (games).”

Marshall currently sits at third place in the East Division with a 10-6 record.

Last weekend, the Miners visited UTSA and were swept by the first-place Roadrunners. This season UTEP has struggled mightily on the road, and are still looking for their first win in 16 games. The last conference series of the season is at North Texas. The Miners’ road struggles make winning this weekend’s series even more imperative.

Eldridge was tabbed as a pre-season All-Conference USA performer and has done her best to live up to that lofty expectation. Eldridge is in the top 30 in the conference in batting average with a .338 and leads the team with 33 runs batted in.

Wade ranks 25th in C-USA in batting average with a phenomenal .342 out of her typical leadoff position. Wade also ranks near the top of the league in stolen bases with 16.

“She’s come out of the wood work, it’s kind of awesome to see,” Eldridge said. “She’s been using her speed on the bases and she stepped up to play centerfield, which is something she’s not used to. She’s been an awesome lead-off batter for us.”

The Miners face an enormous challenge in Marshall’s sophomore pitcher Jordan Dixon. Dixon ranks fourth in C-USA in earned run average with a 2.33. The Thundering Herd’s number one starter has struck out 249 batters this season, which is good for second in C-USA.

While UTEP’s bats have carried their weight this season—as expected—pitching continues to be the number one issue facing the team.

Although the staff as a whole has struggled, sophomore Kaitlin Fifield, out of Chapin High School, has made enormous strides and finds herself atop the pitching depth chart. Fifield sits at 16th in the conference with a 4.11 ERA.

Saturday afternoon’s match-up between each school’s number one starters will be a must-see game. First pitch will be at 2 p.m. The two could conceivably match up again on Sunday afternoon at noon during the Senior Day game, where Wade and Eldridge will be honored.

It will undoubtedly be a very emotional senior weekend series for Wade and Eldridge.

Those emotions could lean more toward elation than anything else if the team ends the weekend poised to make it to the C-USA tournament. Eldridge states her feelings on the upcoming series very succinctly.

“It’s a big weekend for us,” Eldridge said.

Jason Green may be reached at [email protected].

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Softball faces crucial home series