UTEP splits softballs series with Northern Colorado

UTEP+softball+team%2C+celebrates+its+first+victory+of+the+season+over+Northern+Colorado+Feb.+19.

Courtesy of UTEP

UTEP softball team, celebrates its first victory of the season over Northern Colorado Feb. 19.

Heriberto Perez, Sports Reporter

The Miners got their first win of the year at Friday’s game one against Northern Colorado by winning 5-4, and on game two, they lost 3-2 after a walk-off base hit. UTEP (2-6) worked Northern Colorado’s (2-2) starting pitcher Erin Caviness to its 5-4 victory in game one of this pair of doubleheaders at the Helen of Troy Field Friday evening. The Miners failed to win the evening match after their loss.  

“It just shows where we’re at,” UTEP Softball Head Coach T.J. Hubbard said. “They’re a competitive group, and they’re not going to give in.” 

UTEP jumped on the board first behind three consecutive base hits in the second inning. Graduate Bryanna Molina did the first run of the day with a single batter later; freshman Lexi Morales knocked in Santos. In the circle for the Miners started redshirt freshman Mackenzee Collins and she got out of the first two innings unscathed with three runners left on base. The Bears capitalized a fielding error from junior Kasey Flores and made four unearned runs crossed the plate for the bears who capped off a three-run hit of Carson Fischer. 

Santos also answered in the bottom half of the inning with her second double of the day, scoring two and tying the game, 4-4. “(Santos) had a good day,” Hubbard said. “It was good to see her drive in some runs. In the last six games, she’s hit some balls as hard (as I have ever seen her hit). She was right on it.” 

Idalis Mendez made a double to the left-center that brought home the run that UTEP needed in the bottom half of the sixth, game 5-4. Collins was the one to close the game in the top of the seventh inning to earn the first complete game and victory in her collegiate career.  

“(Collins) was in control,” Hubbard said. “There was only one or two times where it got a bit away from her. She went right after kids, and that’s what we’ve been talking a lot about, just from a pitching standpoint. We got into a few stressful situations, but I feel like she held her composure.” 

 In game two, the Miners were down to their final strike twice at the bottom of the seventh inning. Santos and Flores had 1-2 and 3-2 counts respectively to put the tying and go-ahead runs in place with two outs. The game came down for UTEP after senior infielder Ariana Valles made the mistake of looking on a borderline strike-three call. UTEP dropped the nightcap of the first doubleheader by losing 3-2. 

“We played just good enough to be in that situation,” head coach T.J. Hubbard said. “We’ve got to learn how to play a little bit better down the stretch.” 

On Saturday, the Miners had a second doubleheader against the Bears. UTEP tried to overtake Northern Colorado’s lead with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, but they came up just short.  

In-game two, UTEP found redemption and beat the Bears in a very tight game that ended up in a 4-3 victory after two losses in a row. The Miners found the elusive hit with runners in scoring position. 

“It seemed like we’ve had traffic on the base paths all weekend (but) that timely hit had been eluding us,” head coach T.J. Hubbard said. 

Redshirt senior Ilena Santos hit the ball to the left-center that allowed sophomore Zaylie Calderon to tag up and sprint home to reach the game’s tie. Then, junior Kasey Flores pounded a ball that hopped the second baseman, and it allowed the tie-breaking and winning run to score, game 3-2. 

“It was nice to finally get baserunners on and see something get through the infield and score,” Hubbard said. “That just comes down, from an experience standpoint, to get into a situation when you know that RBI is crucial at that moment.” 

In Saturday’s game two, the runs were limited compared with the morning game, but UTEP had a difference of 9-0 by the middle of the third inning after their four errors. Game one ended up in a 10-7 win for Northern Colorado, with UTEP only having one base runner in the final two innings.  

The UTEP softball team will now have two weeks off preparing for its next homestand in the 2021 Orange and Blue Classic from March 5-6. The Miners will  host Arizona State, Montana, and Incarnate Word.  

Heriberto Perez may be reached at [email protected]