Kaitlin Ryder and Erika Harrawood were game one heroes for a second consecutive week as UTEP took care of Southern Miss, 12-2 (5) in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
Ryder registered a career-high five RBI, while Harrawood (3-7) chalked up her first complete-game victory in her career and second triumph in her hometown. Harrawood won her first game in El Paso last Saturday against Middle Tennessee.
“[Harrawood] has done a tremendous job this year,” fourth-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “I know we haven’t necessarily got the wins that she deserved, but all year she’s just kept improving. She’s been solid and just her presence on the mound is exactly want you want in a pitcher. She’s calm, collective and knows what she has to do. It’s not flashy, but she does her job.”
The Orange and Blue also tallied season highs in runs (12) and hits (15).
“We had a lot of clutch hits from a lot of different people,” Echo-Hawk said. “Even that pinch hit from Macey Brown was big; she’s been kind of clutch for us lately. It’s nice to know that they can handle that pressure.”
The Golden Eagles (15-15, 2-6 Conference USA) rebounded to win game two, 6-2. But the Miners (8-20, 3-5 C-USA) still hold a one-game lead in the C-USA West Division.
The series finale is Sunday with the first pitch slated for 11 a.m.
UTEP 12, Southern Miss 2 (5)
The Miners jumped on the Golden Eagles in the second inning, crossing the dish four times. Courtney Clayton put her squad on the board first with a RBI single to left. Cortney Smith scored run after she singled to left with one out. Ryder, with bases juiced, was hit by a pitch to earn a RBI the hard way, plating Mallorie Cross, who walked to reach base. Kiki Pepi put the Miners up 4-0 with a two-run single through the right side that scored Ariel Blair and Clayton.
Southern Miss answered with a pair of runs in the third, but Harrawood kept its bats in check the rest of the way.
Harrawood started strong, as she retired eight of the first nine batters. The tenth batter, Lauren Holifield, put her team on the board with a two-run single. Harrawood only allowed three hits the rest of the way. Harrawood threw all 5.0 frames, allowing only five hits and striking out three.
More run support came Harrawood’s way as the Miners tacked on five more runs in the third, led by two RBI from Ryder and one each from Brown, Cross and Pepi. Brown delivered her fourth RBI in her third pinch-hit situation (3-for-3) the last few weeks.
With UTEP up 9-2 in the fourth, Cross singled in Smith for the run-rule to come into effect. Ryder then punched in a few insurance runs on a double to left center, paving the way for Blair and Lindsey Sokoloski to cross the dish.
Chase Nelson led off the fifth by reaching on an error and Samantha Reynolds reached on an infield single, but Harrawood struck out Arille Pollock on a full-count pitch for the first out. Holifield reached on a fielder’s choice as Nelson rounded second only to be called out on an unassisted out by third baseman Pepi. Tori Dew ended the contest by flying out to center.
Clayton went 2-for-3 for her 10th multi-hit game of the season and no. 52 for her career. Three Miners tied their career highs in hits as Ryder went 3-for-3, Pepi notched a 3-for-4 outing and tallied three RBI, and Smith was a perfect 3-for-3 while setting her career high with three runs. Cross finished with a career high in RBI (two) and runs scored (two).
UTEP 2, Southern Miss 6
UTEP’s nemesis Samantha Robles pitched a complete game, while defeating the Miners for the fourth time in four starts. Robles tallied three wins against UTEP in 2016 (two in the regular season and one in the C-USA Tournament), while earning a save in game one of the regular season series in Hattiesburg.
The Miners took an early 1-0 advantage on Robles in the second on a Cross sacrifice fly to left that plated Hope Moreno.
But the Golden Eagles scored a trio of runs the next frame as Eva Scott led off with a walk and Nelson singled to third, advancing Scott to third base. Both runners would steal bases while Scott’s base snag tied the game 1-1. Holifield gave Southern Miss the go-ahead lead on a sac-fly to center and Dew reached first on an error by Clayton, also paving the way for Ciarra Cherry to score, who walked earlier in the inning.
UTEP got within a run in the third on a Pepi RBI double that scored Ryder. But the Golden Eagles put up two runs in the sixth and another run in the seventh to seal the victory.
Devyn Cretz (5-6) started the game, throwing 3.0 frames with two earned runs, while Kaitlin Fifield hurled 4.0 innings with one earned run.
Clayton, Ryder, Pepi, Moreno, Smith and Sokoloski registered all six hits for the Miners.