Marcus Connolly, The Paisano
The UTSA Roadrunners (30-14, 12-5 C-USA) swept the UTEP Miners (13-32, 8-10 C-USA) this weekend three games to none at Roadrunner Field.
With the wins, the Roadrunners earned their first 30-win season since 2006. UTSA softball is now sitting in first place for Conference USA and looks to keep it that way as the team only has eight more games remaining before tournament play.
Saturday’s doubleheader served as the Roadrunners’ annual Strike Out Cancer Day, honoring former pitcher Hope Ortiz. As an assistant with the program during Ortiz’s tenure, UTSA Head Coach Michelle Cheatham remembers Ortiz as “The ultimate Roadrunner”.
“She was a great teammate who was always there for her team,” said Cheatham. “To be able to recognize her every single year with this Strike Out Cancer game means a lot to us and it means a lot to our program”
The Roadrunners represented Ortiz well on Saturday, stealing the first two games from the Miners by scores of 7-3 and 5-4 respectively.
In game one, UTSA jumped to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third thanks to a single-shot homerun by shortstop Courtney Buchman and an RBI single from designated player Randee Crawford.
Junior Kacy Freeze pitched 5.1 innings for UTSA before sophomore Nicole Merrill came in to relieve. Freeze allowed three runs on four hits as the Roadrunners found themselves down 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth.
Second basemen Madison Kinley sent a single-shot to right field, knotting the score at three a piece and recording her sixth home run of the season in the process. With only one out remaining in the bottom of the sixth, left fielder Jade Smith kept the rally alive by recording her first hit of the ball game.
Freshman Kendall Burton brought Smith in to score after hitting an RBI triple that tight-roped down the right field line to stay fair. First basemen Megan Low tacked on another three runs for the Roadrunners as she hit a three run money ball, giving her team a 7-3 lead over UTEP. The Miners would fail to have a rally of their own as they dropped game one by a final of 7-3.
Game two was a game of call and response. Starting off the top of the 1st, UTEP jumped to an early 2-0 lead over the Roadrunners. UTSA wasted no time though as they responded with two runs of their own. With the game tied at two going into the top of the fourth, shortstop Courtney Clayton knocked in two runs for the Miners and reached base on a single.
Trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Crawford answered back as the Conference USA RBI leader hit a double, bringing in two more runs for the Roadrunners and knotting the game at four.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Crawford found herself in another RBI scenario. The sophomore from Livingston, Texas yet again made the most of her time at bat as she drilled the second pitch she saw, recording an RBI walk-off as Burton crossed the plate for the Roadrunners.
When asked about performing in high stress situations, Crawford said, “I tell myself just relax. Get in the box, there’s no pressure.”
Merrill and the Roadrunners had a short outing on Sunday as UTSA run-ruled UTEP, taking an 8-0 victory after just five innings of play. Out of the twenty batters she faced, Merrill allowed four hits with only one walk and struck out three Miners in her five innings of play. The Roadrunner offense scored four runs on five hits in the bottom of the third and four runs on three hits in the bottom of the fourth.
“This team runs on family and I do believe that,” said Merrill. “I think every single one of us loves each other. We all know our one goal is to make it to (the Conference USA tournament) and we’re gonna win it. When you’ve got an offense that can score seven runs a game, you don’t really worry about the one hits here and there or the runs because you know your offense has your back.”
Next, UTSA will travel to Houston on Wednesday, April 22 as they face Houston Baptist at 3:00pm.