Softball still searches for first win in 2017

File Photo / The Prospector

Jeremy Carranco, Contributor

The UTEP softball team is still seeking their first victory after dropping four games at the DeMarini Desert Classic in Las Vegas this past weekend to fall to 0-9 on the season.

The Miners entered the DeMarini Classic coming off a blowout loss to No. 17 Utah (9-0) in the final game of the five played by the Miners at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, during the previous weekend.

In the first of two games on the opening day of the DeMarini Classic, UTEP faced host school UNLV. The Miners started the game hot, scoring a run in each of the first three innings to take a 3-2 lead into the fourth frame. In the fourth, UNLV quickly got hot with the bat, scoring a total of five runs in the frame. Leading off with three straight hits, an error by UTEP catcher Kaitlyn Rider allowed UNLV to jump to their first lead at 4-3. Later in the inning, UNLV pinch-hitter Alyssa Navarro would cash in on a big big three-run homerun off UTEP freshman pitcher Kaitlin Fifield to open the score at 7-3, the difference maker as UTEP would end of falling 8-4. Courtney Clayton and Taylor Sargent both went 2-for-4 with three RBI’s. The Miners left 11 runners on base in the loss.

During the second game Friday, the Miners battled with the Nevada Wolfpack. UTEP strung together three straight hits to start the bottom of the first. Sargent hit an RBI single to right field bringing in Clayton to give the Miners an early 1-0 lead. The score would remain the same until Nevada tied it in the top of the fourth off a solo homerun by Jennifer Purcell. However, another big inning by the opposing team on the day would doom the Miners as the Wolfpack used a five-run top of the sixth to sink UTEP 6-1.

In the inning, UTEP pitcher Taylor Grohmann threw two wild pitches as UNLV claimed two hits with one UTEP error to open a big lead late. The Miners fought in the last two innings, trying to string together a comeback with three hits and getting two runners in scoring position, but Nevada would hold. With eight runners left on base in the loss, UTEP stranded a total of 19 runners on the day.

Saturday’s games at the DeMarini Classic were cancelled due to rain. UTEP would reschedule their game against Boise State the following afternoon on Sunday, Feb. 19 after their regular scheduled matchup with San Jose State. The matchup with Utah State was not rescheduled.

In their first game on Sunday, the Miners faced the San Jose State Spartans and the offense continued to struggle as the Miners fell 4-1. UTEP was unable to score in the third inning despite having the bases loaded with no outs. Avoiding a shutout, Courtney Smith was able to connect with some power, hitting a solo homerun in the fourth inning in the loss. It was the first time a Miner went yard this season.

In game two, the Broncos jumped all over the Miners early, scoring the game’s first 10 runs to go up 10-0 into the bottom of the third. The Miners offense finally seemed to come to life as they would outscore Boise State 7-1 in the next two innings to cut the deficit to four at 11-7. Smith went deep in the third inning, giving her two homeruns on the day. However, the Miners rally would end in the fourth as they scored five runs but couldn’t carry it the rest of the way. Boise State scored the next five runs the rest of the way, handing UTEP a 16-7 loss.

The Miners hope to turn around their slow start in Riverside this weekend for the Riverside Invitational.

They will play two of their four total games in the Invitational on Friday, Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. MT against the Siena Saints followed by the Utah State Aggies at 12:30 p.m. MT.

The Saints are currently winless sitting at 0-6 overall. They have lost their two of their last three games by one run each to Eastern Michigan (10-9) and to UAB (6-5). Meanwhile, the Aggies are 5-2 overall, but lost two of their last three games played. Utah State was unable to play their last three games of DeMarini Classic due to scheduling conflicts caused by the rain on Saturday.

The following day, the Miners will face host UC-Riverside at 3 p.m. MT before going up against Utah State for a second time on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. The Highlanders are 1-6 on the season with their most recent loss coming to No. 8 Washington, 14-1.

After the Riverside Invitational, UTEP will face Battle of I-10 rival New Mexico State in Las Cruces on Mar. 1. The Aggies shutout the Miners 12-0 the last time the two rivals met back on April 19 of last year at Helen of Troy Softball Complex.