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Softball clinches a spot in the C-USA Tournament

Angel Ulloa
Women’s softball is tied for first place in the Western Division of Conference USA and clinched their spot in the tournament.

The Miners’ softball team made history on Sunday, May 1, by clinching their spot for the Conference-USA Tournament and winning their 13th conference game of the season at home. This year’s Miners have seen the most wins in school history as they went up against the North Texas Mean Green.

The 6-3 win over North Texas has more significance than simply setting a new school record. With this win, the Miners (22-28, 13-8 C-USA) are tied for first place in the West Division of C-USA with UAB (23-28, 13-8 C-USA). This is also the first time since 2010 that the Miners have made the conference’s post-season tournament.

“We are tied for first and it’s a good spot for us,” head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “We just have to make sure we take care of business next weekend (at Southern Miss). It’s nice going into that last weekend a little relaxed instead of having to do so much. It’s a different feeling that we’ve never been through, so I think the kids are going to enjoy it and when they’re loose and relaxed, they play better.”

Although they took care of business at the end, the Miners were at a 1-0 disadvantage early in the first inning. Rhylie Makawe of North Texas slugged an RBI down center field to send Makenzi Dawson home for the first score of the game. Early on, sophomore Courtney Clayton placed herself in the Miners’ history books, setting a new school record for most hits in a season (74). UTEP prevailed with the bases loaded as Danielle Pearson knocked the ball out toward left field for an RBI, and that gave Clayton the run to tie up the game, just after making her record-setting accomplishment.

“This weekend had so many emotions with senior weekend and going to the conference tournament,” Clayton said regarding her record-setting hitting. “I feel blessed to play for a school like UTEP, I’m thankful my name is in the record, but I’m excited for these next games and next two weeks with the seniors”

At the bottom of the second after Clayton doubled, Kiki Pep hit an RBI to send Clayton to her second touch at home plate and take the 2-1 lead.

North Texas didn’t go away easily and made back-to-back scores in the third inning by Dawson and Makawe to slide in a 3-2 lead for the Mean Green.

The Miners from this point on would fly away with this game. An RBI by catcher Linda Garcia led to Pearson evening the game at three points. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Garcia put a stamp on the game after Smith singled to first and Garcia slammed one out of the ball park to left field for a home run and a 5-3 advantage. The killer instinct of the Miners’ offense kept this game rolling as junior Taylor Sargent punished the ball for another home run for the Miners.

“We had to do what we had to do to get the wins; it’s a great feeling to win as a team,” said Garcia, who tallied three RBIs for the team. “I had a rough week hitting in practice, but I just went into this weekend to relax, trust the process and the results came for me. I just have to continue to work harder every day and push until we get what we want.”

The game served as a special reflection for the seniors, who would put on their jerseys for the last time.

“Our season had big moments,” Echo Hawk said. “Pearson had clutch hits, Jade had clutch hits—it’s nice to see the seniors go out on a win. These kids keep fighting and really push through and we’re tied for first–we have to make sure to take care of business next game.”

The emotion was heightened for the seniors on Sunday, with Jade Rodriguez, Morgan Rasmason, Danielle Pearson and Netane Kawehiokalani taking part in their final home game at the Helen of Troy softball field.

“My career here was amazing—from where we first started and to where we are now has been an amazing journey,” Pearson said. “It hasn’t hit me that it’s almost over. I’m more excited that we’re making it to the tournament and tied for first. Being a part of this team that we’ve built in four years, all the bonds and relationships is what I’m going to miss the most.”

The last games for the Miners will be at Southern Miss starting Saturday, May 7. They are competing for a top seed in the West Division.

Christopher Piñones may be reached at [email protected].

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Softball clinches a spot in the C-USA Tournament