Miners survive end of Utah Valley rally to win 10-9 – The Prospector
The UTEP minors (10-23, 4-12) held on to defeat the Utah Valley Wolverines (20-26, 5-10) in their final home game of the season at Helen of Troy Field.
At the bottom of the second inning, the Miners scored their first points of the game. Senior graduates Bryanna Molina and Illena Santos started with back-to-back singles, putting two runners in goal position. Sophomore wide receiver Katrina Somoza then managed to hit her first homer of her career as former Miner pitcher Devyn Cretz, leading by three points to give the Miners an early 3-0 lead.
After a brace from an out by Madison Carr of Utah, junior third base Kasey Flores reversed the first base for his 11th mistake of the season, establishing a runner on first and third with one out. Next at bat, Utah Valley scored a run on a sacrificed fly before being called out for the inning. At the top of the third, the Miners led 3-1.
For starters, Miners rookie Lexi Morales managed to draw a walk followed by a single from her main hitter, second-year outfielder Idalis Mendez. With two players on the base, Flores was able to gain a base on balls to charge the bases. Molina came to bat and hit a sacrifice liner on right field, bringing home a run for the miners.
A Pate Cathey junior batting error scored another run for the Miners, giving the team a 5-1 lead. With his second win of the day, Somoza led by two points on a centerfield single which was followed by back-to-back sacrificed steals by Valles and Molina. At the end of four innings, the Miners would have a seemingly insurmountable 9-1 lead.
“The first two times in the roster I thought we were really locked in and doing what we need to do to give ourselves those opportunities,” said UTEP coach TJ Hubbard. “And on top of that, we scored with a runner in goal position. I felt like even if we didn’t score that at bat, we at least moved someone (a base) and brought someone forward to pass the sticks to the next teammate.
Utah Valley started the fifth inning with a bang as first baseman Peyton Prigge sent a lead down the right-hand circuit. On the next play, Flores made his second mistake of the game and 12th of the season, putting in a second base. Another inning would score on a sacrifice on the field, leaving the Wolverines behind 9-3 after five innings.
Miner’s coach Hubbard traded players, putting Zaylie Calderon on the pitcher. Continuing to scale, the miner led the Wolverines to three hits to charge the bases with one out. UTEP survived the loaded bases and held Utah Valley just two more points, maintaining a 9-5 lead with one inning remaining.
Flores came to bat and hit a home run with one out for the Miners, extending the lead to 10-5. For Flores, it was her Miner who led the seventh circuit and the 21st point of the season.
Once again, Hubbard replaced Calderon and today’s starter Isabella Kelly back at the pitcher to start the seventh and final inning. Kelly gave up one step but pulled out the next player who was looking to sideline the Miners from a hard-earned victory. A third mistake by Flores on third base gave the Wolverines a runner in goal position on second.
Utah Valley’s Kyla Hardy was able to take advantage of the face-off error by hitting a brace down center field to score two runs for the Wolverines.
Prigge produced another push for the Wolverines and advanced to second base. At the next bat on a Utah Valley single, the Miner suffered another error that put the tying point for second in scoring position. Kelly was able to force a field to close the game and secure the narrow 10-9 victory.
For the Miners, the star of the day was Somoza, with a career day spanning five sets that was the key to UTEP’s victory. Coming in today, Somoza had struggled at home plate and had gone without hitting in his last eight games while hitting .177 for the season. Somoza had his first multi-hit game and his first homer in the game.
“I thought we had a good offensive performance in the first half of the game, giving us the opportunity to be 9-1,” said Hubbard. “I think (sophomore pitchers Isabella Kelly and Zaylie Calderon) did what they needed to do with the pitching in the circle to keep us competitive. We need to be able to make better defensive plays and try to limit the damage in those bigger innings.
After winning this non-conference match, the picture of the minors’ playoffs is clearer as Louisiana Tech (22-25, 10-6) clinched the third seed in the Western Division of the Conference USA tournament to be held in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
UTEP will play for one of the two C-USA Tournament Wild Card seeds that are for the two teams with the highest winning percentage of any division.
The four teams with better winning percentages than UTEP (.250) are Western Kentucky (.500), FAU (.375), FIU (.313) and UTSA (.313).
Now the UTEP softball team will hit the road to take on UTSA (11-29, 5-11) May 7-9 with the chance to win at least three of their four games and combine these results with others from FAU, WKU and FIU. . This series in San Antonio has, of course, playoff implications for its final regular season road games of the year.
Heriberto Perez and Michael Cuviello can be reached at [email protected]