Arizona softball host rising UTEP
No. 14 Arizona softball returns to Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium tonight to host a two-game series with a UTEP team that has won five games in a row.
The Wildcats (13-1) suffered their first loss of the 2014 season on Thursday to No. 18 Missouri.
The Miners (6-9) began the season with a 1-9 record but swept the UTEP Invitational with three victories over the University of the Incarnate Word and two over Houston Baptist. That’s UTEP’s first five-game winning streak since 2011.
Two of Arizona’s victories this weekend were against No. 12 Nebraska and No. 16 Texas A&M. The Wildcats won those two games by a combined score of 11-2.
Senior Kenzie Fowler pitched a no-hitter the last time Arizona played UTEP, in 2010. The Wildcats host the Miners Tuesday and Wednesday
Offensively, the Miners are led by outfielder Ashley Eldridge, who has a batting average of .364 and leads the team with 13 RBIs. She is the only Miner with more than 10 runs batted in. She also leads the team with a .659 slugging percentage.
In the circle, UTEP has struggled. Danielle Pearson (3-4) has the lowest ERA on the team at 4.33. In 43.2 innings pitched she has given up 21 earned runs.
The Wildcats haven’t played UTEP since April 2010. Arizona won that two-game series by a combined score of 18-0. In game one of that series, UA senior pitcher Kenzie Fowler pitched a no-hitter.
Prior to tonight, Arizona has faced the Miners eight times. The Wildcats have a 7-1 record all-time versus UTEP. Their largest victory came on March 4, 2009, when they defeated the Miners by a score of 20-1. Their only loss came in their first ever trip to El Paso, Texas, on March 18, 2008, when they lost 9-6.
—UTEP senior infielder Miraya Montiel is from Tucson. She attended Salpointe Catholic High School.
Prior to joining the Miners, Montiel played at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz. So far this season Montiel has started in 14 games. Arizona senior pitcher Estela Piñon (2-1) also played at Yavapai.
— Arizona softball volunteer assistant coach Mark Blair is a 1975 UTEP graduate.
— The last time the Wildcats started a season 13-1 was in 2010. During that 14-game stretch in 2010, Arizona’s only loss was to Missouri.
Attempting to project a starting pitcher for Arizona is difficult, especially in softball when it isn’t particularly uncommon for pitchers to pitch multiple times in a week. Freshman pitcher Michelle Floyd (3-0) had an excellent weekend. Floyd started and pitched four innings on Friday, then three innings on Saturday. In those seven innings of work Floyd gave up four hits and faced only 27 batters. She is a good bet to start tonight. Floyd is the only Arizona pitcher to yet to give up a run or earned run so far this season.
Sophomore Nancy Bowling (4-0) is also another strong candidate to start tonight. Bowling pitched a complete game shutout against the Cornhuskers on Friday.
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella