The UTEP softball team (8-20, 2-4 Conference USA) will take on Southern Miss (15-13, 2-4 C-USA) at Helen of Troy Softball Complex on Saturday (1 p.m. & 3:30 p.m. MT) and Sunday (12 p.m. MT).
Southern Miss Scouting Report
Sarah Van Schaik is leading the Golden Eagles in batting average (.378), hits (31), doubles (11), RBIs (25) and total bases (47). The pitching staff is posting an impressive 1.99 ERA that is pacing Conference USA. The Miners have the edge in power over Southern Miss with 19 more homers.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Miners finally made their home debut after spending 20 games on the road to begin the season. They earned a series victory over Charlotte, 2-1, to open up conference play. The Miners followed up the strong home play against NM State, where the Miners dominated the second game scoring 11 runs with three home runs. Last year, UTEP went 15-8 at home and holds a 54-42 record at home since head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk has taken the lead of the program.
The HELEN OF TROY Effect
It is no secret the Miners like to play at their home stadium of Helen of Troy. The stats tell an interesting story. In 11 away games UTEP is batting .230 with 26 RBIs and only six home runs. At home in El Paso the Miners offense is batting .381 with 36 RBIs and eight homers in 126 less at-bats. The Orange and Blue pitching staff has also benefited from the home field advantage posting an ERA that is 2.34 less than on the road. The 1-10 record on the road and 3-2 at home combined with the statistics behind the records truly tells a story of two teams.
Wright Place, Wright Time
Senior Julia Wright is starting off conference play on the right foot. In Wright’s first weekend of C-USA play, she threw two complete-game victories in 13.0 innings pitched, while only surrendering one earned run. Charlotte was coming into the series with a league high .309 batting average, but the senior held the 49ers to a .270 hitting clip in her outings, stifling their bats for the weekend.
C-USA Leader In Home Runs
UTEP leads Conference USA with 32 home run this season. The Miners are averaging 1.14 home runs per game and is on pace to smack 56 dingers this season. The most home runs hit during the Tobin Echo-Hawk era was 51 in 2016 (third most all-time in program history). The school record is 63 done in 2009, while the Miners connected on 62 in 2012 and 57 long balls in 2006. Nationally, UTEP ranks tied for 33rd in home runs per game.
The Sun City Bombers
UTEP’s Kacey Duffield, Kasey Flores and Cortney Smith have combined for 21 home runs, 60 RBI, 79 hits and a .351 batting average for the Orange and Blue. The trio of bats in the Miner lineup have been a problem for opposing pitching staffs. In the first game of the season versus Creighton (Feb. 8), the three sluggers made their presence known, with Smith and Flores smacking two homers each and Duffield adding another. Smith and Flores are the first pair of teammates to record two home runs in the same game since 2006 when three Miners did it against NM State in 2006 (Amber Bennett, Amber Camancho and Ashley Perez). Flores ranks third in slugging percentage (.731) and Duffield rates fourth (.708) for Conference USA. The long ball is a major weapon for the Miners as they lead the league in homers (32). Smith, Flores and Duffield each have hit seven home runs. They rank tied for second most in Conference USA in that department. Middle Tennessee’s Lexi Cushing and Marshall’s Mya Stevenson are tied for the league lead with eight home runs each.
In UTEP history, there have only been two instances where two teammates batted .400 at the end of the season. Chelsea Troupe and Camilla Carrera accomplished the feat in 2009 and 2012, respectively. Kacey Duffield and Kasey Flores have the chance to join Troupe and Carrera. Duffield is batting .403 and Flores is leading the squad with a .410 batting average. With a bulk of conference play still ahead for the Miners and nine more home games the two big bats have a strong chance to permanently etch their names in the Miner record books.
Chasing the Triple Crown
The Triple Crown is a rare achievement in softball and baseball history. It is when a player leads their league in batting average, home runs and RBIs at the end of the season. Freshman Kasey Flores is making a push for that crown in Conference USA this season. The freshman currently is third in batting average (.410), tied for second in homers (seven) and is four RBIs back of the conference lead (23). Flores would join fellow Miner Camilla Carerra as one of only three others to accomplish this in C-USA.
The Miners already boast two player of the week honorees by conference USA this season. The first being freshman Kasey Flores who posted an outstanding opening weekend with a .643 batting average, three home runs, nine hits and 10 RBI. Most recently, senior Kacey Duffield was given the honor after the first weekend of conference play. Duffield hit .643 with nine hits, eight RBI, two home runs and a .706 on-base percentage.
Valles Coming Alive
The Miners’ shortstop Ariana Valles has proven her worth at the plate this season. In a comeback victory over UC Riverside the sophomore logged a program-tying three doubles and five RBIs to lead the Miners to victory. At home against I-10 rival NM State, Valles blasted two dingers that helped propel UTEP to a run rule win over the Aggies 11-3 (5).
Kacey Duffield had a career day in the batter’s box against Charlotte (March 9). The senior went 3-3 with two singles, a home run and a career-high five RBIs, surpassing her previous career high of four RBIs (4/18/18).
You can count on Kacey Duffield to get on base like you can count on the sun to rise over El Paso. The first baseman has reached base in 26 of UTEP’s 28 games this season. Her stellar batting average of .403 is a good reason why as she has tallied 29 hits on the season. However, her eye at the plate is the biggest reason why she has been a staple on the base paths. The senior has drawn 17 walks, which rates as the fourth most in C-USA. She also boasts the second highest on-base percentage (.516) in the league. Duffield will continue to be seen on bases this season if she can maintain the discipline at the plate.
Duffield in the Box
Senior Kacey Duffield provided a reliable bat for head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk’s offense. She is batting .403 with 29 hits, seven home runs and 20 RBIs. Her seven dingers were no doubters when they left the senior’s bat. Duffield has reached base safely in 26 of the Miners’ 28 games this season. The first baseman has logged 145 putouts with two errors and seven assists. During the week of March 10 the senior was awarded C-USA Player of the Week after her series versus Charlotte where she batted .643 with nine hits, eight RBIs, two home runs and a .706 OBP.
Freshman Kasey Flores has posted an impressive stat line in her first 26 games with a .410 batting average, 21 runs scored, 32 hits, four doubles, seven home runs, 23 RBIs, 57 total bases and a .731 slugging percentage. This stat line is comparable to Chelsea Troupe’s in 2009. Troupe posted, in her first 21 games a .406 batting average, 18 runs scored, 26 hits, five doubles, five home runs, 17 RBIs, 46 total bases and a .719 slugging percentage.
AMONG THE GREATS
The table below shows where Kasey Flores’s numbers rank among the top four best 26-game starts to a career. The names alongside Flores should look familiar, as they are three of the best players to ever don the Orange and Blue. Stacie Townsend is the best pitcher in UTEP history and was no slouch in the batter’s box either. Camilla Carrera is the only All-American in Miner history, and led the country in home runs (32) and slugging percentage (1.199) in 2012. Chelsea Troupe was Conference USA Freshman of the year in 2009, and a two-time C-USA All-Conference first team selection. These three legends rank in the top three spots in on-base percentage, home runs and RBIs in UTEP history.
Flores Heat Check
Freshman Kasey Flores has registered an incredible opening to her career, posting a .410 batting average, seven home runs, 32 hits and 23 RBIs. She earned Conference USA Player of the Week and NFCA Top Performer recognition after the opening four games of play due to her outstanding bat. In her first collegiate game, Flores had two home runs, one single and seven RBIs. Her RBI total for the game is tied for the second most in UTEP history and is the most in a debut by a Miner.
Rivalries are fun
Freshman Kasey Flores has not shrunk in games against I-10 rival NM State. Flores in three games this season against the Aggies is batting .778 with seven hits, three doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, 16 total bases and a 1.778 slugging percentage. NM State has only been able to get the freshman out twice in nine at-bats this season.
Freshman on Top
Kasey Flores is the highest-ranking freshman in hits (32) and seventh highest-ranking freshman slugging percentage (.731, minimum 50 at-bats) in the nation. The freshman also rates second in total bases (57), fourth in home runs (7) amongst college newbies across the country. Flores is the highest ranking-freshman in C-USA in batting average, hits, runs scored, slugging percentage and total bases. She is also the second-highest rated freshman in on-base percentage in the league.
Cort is in Session
Senior Cortney Smith started her final season with a bang. In her first at-bat versus Creighton (Feb. 8), she hit a two-run bomb into deep right field. In the next inning, Smith went yard again tacking on another three runs to her RBI total (five) for the day. The senior, after the first month of play, is posting a league high seven home runs and 17 RBIs
Miners On the road
The Miners logged 6,120 miles of travel before Conference USA play begins. The Orange and Blue began the journey by traveling up the road to compete in I-10 rival NM State’s Invitational, and Las Vegas, Nev., for nine games. A five-game trip to Davis, Calif., (Feb. 21-23) was next on the agenda for the traveling Miners as a part of UC Davis’s Tournament. Next on the docket, UTEP stayed out west for the UCR Classic (Mar. 1-3), and then traveled to Lubbock, Texas.
Catch me if you can
Senior Ariel Blair is the second player in program history to lead the team in stolen bases for three consecutive seasons (2016-2018). If she were to top the squad for a fourth straight year Blair would be the first Miner to ever accomplish the feat. Last season, she went a perfect 10-10 in stolen base attempts, which tied for the highest success rate in a season (Chelsea Troupe 2011 11-11). The outfielder currently has 20 base swipes in her career and only needs three to become fifth all-time in the Miner record books.
Big Shoes To Fill
The Miners will be reliant on their 2019 roster to replace some heavy hitters from last year’s squad. Courtney Clayton was one of the most reliable Miners at the plate in program history holding numerous places in the Miner record books. Last season Clayton, Kaitlin Ryder and Taylor Sargent combined for 162 hits, 29 doubles, eight triples, 14 home runs and 76 RBI. Tobin Echo-Hawk and her staff will be looking to Seniors Cortney Smith, Kacey Duffield and Ariel Blair to step up in a big way. Smith and Duffield were third and fourth in batting average and hits last season. They also combined for 10 home runs and 40 RBI. Blair will be relied upon to turn singles into doubles, and put pressure on opponent’s defenses with her speed on the base paths. Junior Pamala Baber batted .326 with 16 RBI and an impressive .443 OBP during the 2018 campaign, and will be seeking to improve on that production. El Paso, Texas, native Ariana Valles rated third on the team in RBI (24) in just her freshman season, garnering her a selection on the C-USA All-Freshman Team.
Coach Tobin Echo-Hawk has coached two freshmen Courtney Clayton (2015) & Ariana Valles (2018) to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team during her time at UTEP. Valles started all 54 games for the Miners as the premier shortstop. She ranked fourth on the team in hits (38) and had the most assists on the team (104) with a .936 fielding percentage. Echo-Hawk will be looking to the six fresh faces in the Miner dugout to help continue that legacy. The freshman class consists of infielders Kasey Flores and Pate Cathey, outfielder Idalis Mendez, pitchers Bryana Munoz & Nadya Orozco and utility player Sky Estrada. Flores is already off to a great start this season, hitting .410, seven home runs, 32 hits and 23 RBIs. Pate Cathey, coming off of a major ankle injury, has entered the Miner lineup and posted three RBIs and two hits during the Vegas road trip. She also has shown great range in the field with a powerful arm to boot.
In The Field
The Miners set a program record with only 58 errors and a .962 fielding percentage during the 2018 campaign. Since head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk took over the program in 2013, the fielding percentage has been on a steady incline. This improvement has been in large part due to the coaching of Echo-Hawk and assistant coach Cristina Cobb-Adams who were both standout infielders in college at their respective schools (Nebraska and Princeton). With five starters returning to the field, UTEP hopes to continue that trend.
Next on the Docket
UTEP will travel to UAB to take on the Blazers (March 30-31). The Miners will start a string of nine consecutive away games (at Arizona [DH], at New Mexico, at LA Tech).