EL PASO, Texas – Cleaning up defensive miscues and a deliberate approach at the plate gave the Miners their first win of the year and in position for a walk-off base hit in game two.
“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 softball (1-4) worked Northern Colorado’s (1-1) starting pitcher Erin Caviness en route to its 5-4 victory in game one of the doubleheader at Helen of Troy Field Friday evening. The Miners fell in the night contest, 3-2.
Through the first two innings, UTEP’s lineup had four at-bats of six pitches or more, including two nine-pitch at-bats from Pate Cathey and Zaylie Calderon, and boosted Caviness’s pitch count to 48.
The Miners jumped on the board first behind three consecutive base hits in the second inning. Senior Ariana Valles opened the frame with a bloop single to left field, and redshirt senior Ilena Santos moved Valles’s pinch runner freshman Autumn Scott over to third with the first extra-base hit of her season – a double down the third-base line.
Graduate Bryanna Molina brought home the first run of the day with a single and, two batters later, freshman Lexi Morales knocked in Santos.
Redshirt freshman Mackenzee Collins started in the circle for the Miners and got out of the first two innings unscathed with three runners left on base. After a rare fielding error from junior Kasey Flores, four unearned runs crossed the plate for the Bears, capped off by three-run blast off the bat of Carson Fischer.
Santos answered in the bottom half of the inning with her second double of the day to right field, 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.”
Collins tossed another two-and-two-thirds shutout innings until she faced her next obstacle in the top of the sixth inning.
Collins was tasked with getting two more after allowing back-to-back singles. On a screaming groundball up the middle, shortstop Pate Cathey made a diving stop and flipped the ball in her glove to Morales at second base for the force out, saving a run.
UTEP catcher Karina Somoza yielded the baserunner taking second in the next at-bat, putting two Bears in scoring position. Collins then produced a fly out to right field to get out of the jam.
“(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.”
An Idalis Mendez double to left-center brought home the go-ahead run in the bottom half of the sixth, 5-4.
Collins shut the door in the top of the seventh inning to earn the first complete game and victory in her collegiate career.
The Miners were down to their final strike twice in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Flores and Santos, on 3-2 and 1-2 counts, respectively, singled through the left side of the infield to put the tying and go-ahead runs in place with two outs.
But senior infielder Ariana Valles went down looking on a borderline strike-three call, and UTEP dropped the night cap of its doubleheader with Northern Colorado, 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.”
Sophomore utility Zaylie Calderon continued her hot start to the season allowing only one unearned run until the top of the sixth inning.
Hubbard called for a mound visit and Northern Colorado Head Coach Ben Garcia called for a pinch hitter, Emma Brockmann.
Brockmann powered a two-run homerun on the fourth pitch of the at-bat over the right field fence to give the Bears the lead.
“(Northern Colorado was) able to play the change and it went in their favor,” Hubbard said.