UTEP to Host Southern Miss in Conference Opener
El Paso, TX — After taking down I-10 rival NM State on Tuesday, the UTEP softball team will open Conference USA action against Southern Miss on March 8 and 9 at Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
The Miners (7-14) and Golden Eagles (6-12) will open with a Saturday doubleheader (starting at 2 p.m. MT), while Sunday’s contest is a noon start. Fans are encouraged to wear orange for free admission.
UTEP has gotten off to an undefeated start (6-0) in the Sun City.
“I think the team realizes we’re undefeated at home and they like playing in from of their crowd,” first-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “It’s key this weekend to play at home coming off that win (over NM State) and being comfortable in the home setting. It helps alleviate some of the pressure.”
The Miners are coming off a tough nonconference schedule in which they took on six 2013 NCAA Tournament teams, while four of the programs are ranked in the Top 25 this season (No. 9 Nebraska, No. 12 Florida State, No. 10 Arizona, No. 7 Washington, Hawai’i and San Jose State).
“We played some tough games and had some hard losses,” Echo-Hawk said. “Most teams might get down on themselves, but the team has done a nice job of staying the course and believing things are going to get better by the time we start conference.”
Echo-Hawk’s squad is batting .300 and has scored 103 runs. But defense is something she would like to improve on – though Tuesday’s win saw the Miners make key outs with fundamental plays and hustle.
“Hitting is our strong point,” Echo-Hawk said. “We’ve done a great job of getting on base and scoring runners. We have a lot of power, have some short game and we just mix it up. It’s definitely something we’re going to rely on, but we need to focus on defense so we stop them from scoring runs.”
Senior Miraya Montiel leads the team with a .391 batting average (18-for-46) and stolen bases (five). Senior Erika Arcuri is hitting.343 (23-for-67), leads the team in runs scored (14) and hits. Senior Alanna Leasau is the leading home run hitter with four, while producing 11 RBI andhitting .321 (18-for-56). Senior Colleen Hohman is hitting .327 (16-for-49), with three long balls and 12 RBI. Junior Ashley Eldridge is pacing the team in RBI (14) and doubles (seven), while batting .339 (20-for-59).
In the circle, Hohman’s 5.12 ERA is a team-best. She also picked up her first win after pitching five innings during the 5-1 victory over the Aggies. Danielle Pearson leads the team wins (three) and strikeouts (26) in 56.2 innings of work. Pearson also picked up the save on Tuesday night.
Series vs. Southern Miss
UTEP holds a 12-10-1 all-time record over Southern Miss, dating back to the 2006 season. The two programs split last season’s two games in Hattiesburg, Miss. (the first game of the series was cancelled due to rain).
The Miners defeated the Golden Eagles, 10-4, in the first game of a doubleheader on March 24, 2013. Leasau, Kayleigh Walts, and Pearson all notched two RBI each, while Ashley Collazo knocked in three runs on a 2-for-3 performance. Pearson picked up the win in the circle (7.0 IP, four hits & three Ks). The Miners produced 13 hits.
The Golden Eagles took game two, 4-3 in nine innings. A 3-1 lead would vanish for the Miners as Michelle Stringer tied the contest with a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Mackenzie Sher hit a bases-loaded sac-fly to center that plated the winning run.
Scouting Southern Miss
The Golden Eagles are 6-12 on the season and are coming off a 9-8 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Southern Miss is 0-7 on the road.
Sarah Evans has a team-leading .371 batting average (13-for-35), while Katie Cleary is hitting .368 (14-for-38) and leads the squad in RBI (10). Sher and Selena Estrada have each hit two of the five Southern Miss home runs. The team is hitting .258 and has scored 60 runs.
In the circle, Shelbee Rodgers leads the team in ERA (5.53), wins (four), and strikeouts (46) in 43 innings.