Miner softball swept by NMSU in Tuesday doubleheader

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Miner softball swept by NMSU in Tuesday doubleheader

Mike Flores, Sports Reporter

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After a 2-1 series loss to Southern Mississippi on Sunday, UTEP softball had a short turnaround with their rival New Mexico State coming to town for a double-header on Tuesday. UTEP is now on a four-game skid after NMSU defeated them in both games.

 

In the first game, the Aggies won 8-4 and defeated UTEP by an even wider margin in the second game, 13-4. Now, UTEP sits at 8-23 overall, while NMSU climbed to 12-16 on the season and earned their first back-to-back away wins this year (3-6 on road).

 

Through the last nine games of the rivalry, NMSU has had the upper hand, winning eight.

 

In the first game of the double-header, UTEP’s comeback attempt was flattened by a three-run seventh inning from the Aggies that turned out to be the dagger in the hearts of the Miners.

 

UTEP was down 5-1 to start the bottom of the sixth inning. However, the Miners showed a sign of life that began with the bottom of the lineup.

 

Bases were loaded with only one out when the beginning of the batting lineup came to hit. UTEP’s junior slugger Kaitlin Ryder stepped up to the plate. Ryder connected on a pitch to drive in two runs, inching UTEP closer, 5-3.

 

One batter later, Miner starting centerfielder Ariel Blair baited NMSU’s catcher Nikki Butler to try to get her for the final out at third, but Butler’s throw went over the third baseman. Blair crossed the plate, and UTEP made things interesting at 5-4, but would not hold up in the bottom half of the inning.

 

In 1.2 innings of pitching, including a deflating seventh inning, Harrawood allowed three runs on four hits. The last batter on NMSU’s lineup, outfielder Amy Bergeson, connected on an RBI triple, but Bergeson was not done there—she was safe at home after a Miner error on the same play. All of this took place with two outs for the Aggies and was the reason NMSU pushed the lead to four with only one inning remaining.

 

Pitcher Kaitlin Fifield was dealt the loss and is still searching for her first victory of her senior season (0-4). In 5.1 innings, Fifield allowed five runs on six hits, and walked six batters. But when El Paso-native and senior pitcher Erika Harrawood came in to relieve Fifield, she had her own struggles on the mound.

 

In total, UTEP recorded more hits than NMSU, but with the combination of an off day pitching and five errors for the orange and blue—UTEP allowed their opponents to get on the board easier than it should have been, according to Miner head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk.

 

“When you make five errors and outhit them it’s hard to win a game. I think if we played more solidly on defense, that game would have been ours,” said Echo-Hawk. “The thing I’m taking out of this game is offensively. I think we did a good job against a good pitching staff, getting 13 hits on (NMSU starting pitcher Kayla) Green is a big thing. She’s one of the better pitchers we are going to face and anybody we are going to face in C-USA. We are going to try and continue that and continue scoring some runs.”

 

The Aggies continued the momentum in the second game.

 

After thirty minutes of intermission between the games, Echo-Hawk went with freshman pitcher Allie Johnson, while NMSU rode with their freshman Samaria Diaz. In the battle of freshman pitchers, it was Johnson who showed her inexperience in the circle.

 

“It was a game where we needed to see where Allie Johnson is and what she can do, and it was a great time to see since it wasn’t a conference series. We needed to put her in the fire and see how she would respond,” said Echo-Hawk.

 

During the second inning, NMSU broke out the bats—the Aggies scored nine runs on seven hits, while 13 batters went up to the plate to get their share of the hot hitting. Johnson was replaced by redshirt freshman pitcher Devyn Cretz, who could not stop the bleeding.

 

NMSU’s rampage in the top of the second inning included a two-run homerun from infielder Nikki Butler, two doubles from NMSU’s starting outfielder Caity Szczesny and second baseman Kelsey Horton.

 

“I think (Johnson) did a great job in the first inning, but unfortunately a game takes more than one inning. I think when a team gets into a good groove, it’s hard to stop them, regardless of who’s pitching,” said Echo-Hawk.

 

To begin the bottom of the second inning, the score read 9-1, in favor of the visitors.

 

The Aggie onslaught continued in the fourth inning. NMSU totaled 15 hits and another homerun hit from Butler (fourth on the year) in the fourth inning. UTEP could not respond, as they only recorded seven hits.

 

Even though UTEP managed to score two runs in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, it was not enough to push the game to seven innings, as only five innings did the job for the Aggies.

 

To make matters worse, UTEP’s reigning C-USA player of the year Courtney Clayton continued her cold streak both at the plate and on second base; Clayton is now 3-15 in her last four games, including 2-7 in both games against NMSU.

 

Outfielder Ariel Blair, who went 4-5 against the Aggies in both games, and Ryder, who went 3-7 with three RBI, were the lone bright spots for the Miners.

 

UTEP is back to conference play against UTSA on the road, starting Apr. 1. The Miners sit one game in front of the Roadrunners for last place in C-USA.

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