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Softball opens season against nation’s top teams in Kajikawa Classic

File Photo / The Prospector

The UTEP Miners’ softball team began their 2017 campaign in the Kajikawa Classic tournament in Tempe, Arizona, on Thursday, Feb. 9. The team left Arizona without a win, but put up a fight against some of the nation’s better teams.

The Miners faced off against the Stanford Cardinal from the Pac-12 in their season opener. Junior catcher Kaitlyn Ryder scored senior third baseman Kiki Pepi in the third inning to tie the score at 1-1, but the pitching of freshman Allie Johnson and senior Kaitlin Fifield was not enough to contain the powerful Cardinal, who tallied 10 runs in total.

UTEP faced tournament hosts Arizona State in the second game of the season. The Sun Devils raced ahead 5-0 after a third-inning grand slam, the second game in a row where a grand slam was hit against the Miners. The game only went to five innings with a final score of 8-0. The Miners never found their groove and were unable to make any hits. UTEP also struggled on the mound and 10 Sun Devils were walked throughout the contest.

The Miners returned to the field on Friday to face off against St. Mary’s University (Calif.). It was a gritty match and the Miners found fire at the plate with seven hits. However, the effort was not enough, and St. Mary’s was victorious by a score of 3-1. Senior Erika Harrawood started at pitcher, playing well and staying in the game for over five innings. UTEP showed signs of progress during the contest, but two St. Mary’s runs in the sixth inning proved to be the downfall of the Miner squad. Freshman catcher Mallorie Cross and junior first baseman Taylor Sargent combined for five hits, with hits also added by junior second baseman Courtney Clayton and junior third baseman Hope Moreno.

In their fourth contest of 2017, the Miners played the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Virginia Cavaliers tough for the entire game. Leading late, the Miners gave up three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and were unable to respond. Pepi was walked at the start of the seventh, and pinch runner, freshman Mariah Ellis, made it to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Sargent. Freshman Macey Brown was walked, but the Miners were unable to convert any runs despite having two runners on base.

Sophomore outfielder Ariel Blair highlighted the day with three hits for the Miners. Clayton, Pepi, freshman outfielder Pamala Baber and sophomore outfielder Lindsey Sokoloski also tallied hits for the Miners in the loss.

The Miners played no. 17 Utah in their fifth and final game, but ran out of steam. The Utes jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first inning and the Miners were unable to register any runs in the 9-0 loss. Clayton and Ryder tallied the only hits in the game for the Miners. The Utes jumped out fast, loading the bases against Johnson with no outs. Freshman pitcher Devyn Cretz pitched for the first time as a Miner and struck out four in 3.2 innings.

Next, the Miners will compete in the DeMarini Desert Classic Tournament hosted by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The tournament takes place February 17-19.

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Augie Touris, Contributor
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Softball opens season against nation’s top teams in Kajikawa Classic