EL PASO, Texas – UTEP softball (10-23, 4-12 C-USA) defeated Utah Valley (20-26, 5-10 WAC), 10-9, in the Miners’ final non-conference game of the season Sunday afternoon at Helen of Troy Field. Sophomore catcher Karina Somoza had a career-best five RBIs in the second multi-hit game of her career.
“I thought we had some good offensive performances in the first half of the game, giving ourselves an opportunity to be up 9-1,” head coach T.J Hubbard said. “I think (sophomore pitchers Isabella Kelly and Zaylie Calderon) did what they needed to do pitching wise in the circle to keep us competitive. We have to be able to make some better plays defensively and try to limit the damage in those bigger innings.”
UTEP pounced on the Utah Valley’s ace and former Miner Devyn Cretz in the second inning to score the first runs of the game. Graduate infielder Bryanna Molina and senior infielder Ilena Santos led off the frame with back-to-back singles.
One batter later, Somoza hit the first home run of her career – a three-run shot – in the seventh pitch of the at-bat.
The Miners had their first and second batter from innings two through four reach base safely via a base hit or walk. The leadoff hitter in each of those innings would score.
The Wolverines tallied their first run in the next top half inning, 3-1, before UTEP plated another handful of runs in the bottom of the third. Molina brought home the first run with a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded.
After the Miners scored on an error by the Utah Valley first baseman, Somoza stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and singled to center field to stretch the UTEP lead, 7-1, and push her RBI total to five. Senior infielder Ariana Valles capped off the Miners’ scoring run with another sacrifice fly. UTEP would have four total sacrifice flies in the contest – two of which belonged to Molina.
Molina’s second sac fly came in the bottom half of the fourth, 9-1.
“The first couple of times through the lineup I thought we were really locked in and doing what we needed to do to give ourselves those opportunities,” Hubbard said. “And on top of that, we scored with runner in scoring position. I felt like even if we didn’t score that at-bat, we at least moved someone up (a base) and advanced someone to pass the bats to the next teammate.”
Kelly tossed four innings and allowed only one unearned run to start the game.
However, the Wolverines began chipping away at the Miner lead with two runs in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. Junior infielder Kasey Flores answered in the bottom of the sixth with what turned out to be a much-needed insurance run coming in the form of a solo homer to left field, 10-5. Flores now leads the team with seven home runs and 21 RBIs.
Kelly re-entered the game for sophomore pitcher Zaylie Calderon to close the game and clinch Kelly’s fifth win of the season. Kelly recorded two outs before Utah Valley strung together four base hits to close the gap to just one run before the Wolverines ultimately grounded out to Cathey at shortstop to end the game.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: THE PLAYOFF PICTURE
Louisiana Tech (22-25, 10-6 C-USA) clinched the third seed in the West Division of the Conference USA Tournament held in Bowling Green, Ky. The Miners will play for one of the two Wild Card seeds of the C-USA Tournament that belong to the two teams with the next highest winning percentage regardless of division (outside of the six automatic-qualifying teams).
There are four teams outside of the six auto-qualifiers – Western Kentucky (.500), FAU (.375), FIU (.313) and UTSA (.313) – who currently have better winning percentages than UTEP (.250).
*Two of the following scenarios, in addition to UTEP winning three games vs. UTSA, must happen for the Miners can qualify without tiebreakers:
- To oust UTSA, UTEP must win at least three of its four games versus UTSA next weekend (May 7-9). This would give the Miners a (.350 winning percentage).
- To oust FAU, Western Kentucky must sweep FAU next weekend. If UTEP sweeps UTSA, pushing the Miners’ winning percentage to .400, Western Kentucky only needs to win three of its four games versus FAU.
- To oust WKU, FAU must sweep Western Kentucky next weekend. If UTEP sweeps UTSA, FAU only needs to win three of its four games versus FAU.
- To oust FIU, Middle Tennessee must win three of its four games versus FIU next weekend. If UTEP sweeps UTSA, Middle Tennessee only needs to win two of its four games versus FAU.
* All scenarios hinge upon UTEP winning three out of four versus UTSA.
NEXT UP FOR THE MINERS
UTEP softball (10-23, 4-12 C-USA) heads to San Antonio from May 7-9 to face UTSA (11-29, 5-11 C-USA) with playoff implications on the line for its final regular-season road series of the year.