CUSA: UTEP splits DH with WKU on 'Bark in the Park' day
EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) – Senior Kaitlin Fifield pitched a complete-game victory and freshman Mallorie Cross registered a career-high three RBI as UTEP took care of WKU in six innings, 10-2, in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader at the Helen of Troy Softball Complex.
The Hilltoppers (21-21, 5-9 Conference USA) responded with an 18-8 (5) victory over the Miners (11-27, 5-9 C-USA) in game two.
The series finale will be played Sunday with the first pitch slated for a noon start.
UTEP 10, WKU 2 
The Miners came out firing in the first inning as Kaitlin Ryder led the game off with a single to left on a 0-2 pitch. Courtney Clayton drew a walk to set up a Taylor Sargent two-out, two-run single hit to left on a full-count pitch to give UTEP a 2-0 advantage. Sargent had also advanced to second on the throw and after taking third base on a passed ball, Cross recorded the first of her three RBI on a double smacked to right center for a 3-0 lead.
UTEP took a 4-0 lead when Pamala Baber drew a lead-off hit by pitch that set up a Clayton sacrifice hit to left.
The Hilltoppers cut the lead to 4-2 as Jordan Mauch and Adarian Gray tallied back-to-back RBI doubles in the third. But the Orange and Blue got the pair of runs back in the home half as Pepi and Sargent crossed the dish on a throwing error to home with bases loaded (6-2).
The Miners would tack on another run in the fourth when Cross singled in Kiki Pepi on an infield single on a 2-2 pitch to put the Miners ahead, 7-2. Pepi had reached on a fielder’s choice earlier in the frame.
After a scoreless fifth, the Miners put the game away in the sixth.
Cortney Smith reached second base on an error with one out, while Pepi singled in Smith on a hit to shallow left for an 8-2 advantage. Sargent would reach on a fielder’s choice as out no. 2 was recorded, but Cross connected on her third hit of the afternoon on a single to center that plated Sargent (9-2). Cross, who had reached second on the throw, was replaced by pinch runner senior Miranda Gutierrez. Lindsey Sokoloski, who rates no. 1 in the nation in toughest to strikeout, drew a walk on a 3-1 toss that set up Baber. After a wild pitch advanced Gutierrez to third, the freshman drove a ball through the left side that plated her teammate for the game-winning run.
UTEP produced another double-digit hit (12) performance led by Cross’s 3-for-4 effort (tied career high). Sargent’s bat stayed lit as she produced a 3-for-4 outing with a pair of RBI and a career-high three runs scored. Sargent is hitting .615 (16-26) with nine RBI, five doubles, six runs and two stolen bases the last seven games (including game two). Clayton (including game two) has reached base in nine consecutive games after she drew a walk during game one.
“[Taylor Sargent] is doing a great job and she’s starting to stay within herself and not try too hard,” fourth-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said. “At the beginning of the year she was struggling a bit and it’s always a mental challenge. If they just keep working like we tell them, sooner or later things are going to fall into place. Your swing is going to make sense and you’ll start to feel comfortable. She’s done a great job with that.”
Fifield (2-5) won her second game of the season after hurling her team-leading third complete game. Fifield kept WKU’s big bats in check (leads C-USA in home runs), only allowing five hits and striking out a trio of Hilltoppers.
“[Kaitlin Fifield] did a great job and she kept [WKU] off the bases,” Echo-Hawk said. “Even when she got herself into a couple of jams, she did a nice job working out of it. She’s hitting her strides and we’re hoping she can keep consistent.”
One of those jams happened in the third after the back-to-back doubles. Fifield forced a ground out and struck out Rebekah Engelhardt to end the inning that left two runners on base.
Fifield now has 24 wins in the career, ranking tied third with Kelly Curran on the program’s all-time list. Danielle Pearson recorded 25 wins to rank no. 2. Stacie Townsend won 64 contests during her illustrious career.
The Miners also turned their 23rd double play of the season in the sixth (L54 DP), while it was the seventh double play turned the last six games.
UTEP 8, WKU 18 
The Hilltoppers poured on the runs in the first inning as they took an 8-0 lead on five knocks.
The Miners never recovered but did score some runs to make the game interesting the first few frames.
After Clayton singled to left to reach base for the ninth consecutive game and Pepi drew a two-out walk, Sargent’s lumber did more work as she plated her teammates with her second career triple hit to right field off the fence to make the score 8-2. It was Sargent’s first triple since her freshman season.
After WKU scored a trio of runs in the second (11-2), the Miners responded with two more runs after Baber whaled on a 1-1 pitch and drove a liner down the leftfield line for her third home run of the season, getting the Miners within seven runs. The dinger was Baber’s first since March 8 at New Mexico.
With the score 12-4, Ryder drove in Sokoloski on a single slammed to right center. Sokoloski had reached base with her speed on a single hit to the short stop.
After WKU scored another six runs in the fifth, the Miners came up with three more runs in the bottom half. With bases loaded with one out, Sokoloski grounded out, but paved the way for Smith to cross the dish. A wild pitch then plated Pepi and Baber came up with her career-high third RBI on a hit to center field that scored Sargent.
UTEP registered nine knocks led by Baber’s 2-for-3 performance (tied career high). Prior to game one, Baber was hitless the previous eight games. Sargent tallied two more hits and Ariel Blair went 2-for-2.
“[Pamala Baber] and I worked pretty hard on timing this week,” Echo-Hawk said. “And she did a good job of paying attention to it and trying to do different things. She’s buying into what we are trying to tell her. It helps that she’s super coachable which helps us a lot.”
Blair made a spectacular catch to steal a Engelhardt home run the third inning with two outs. Engelhardt connected on a towering ball that just kept going. However, Blair made a nice read on it and made a leaping attempt to steal it over the fence. The ball hit her glove to ricochet back into the field of play and Blair snagged it while falling to the ground.