By: Alberto Urueta 

 The UTEP softball season ended on Thursday night after a heartbreaker against the Liberty Flames in the CUSA Tournament.  

Miners Lexi Morales, Zaylie Calderon, Idalis Mendez, Ashlynn Allen, Aaliyah Rebolledo, Marjin Crouwel, Autumn Scott, and Anna Sample have all played their last games in the blue and orange as graduating seniors.  

Pitching Woes 

Both sides struggled in the pitching circle, but Liberty solved their problems immediately and the Miners had to resort to their bullpen twice, which was the deciding factor. 

Liberty’s starting pitcher was Paige Bachman and the Miners jumped all over her immediately. Lexi Morales led things off for UTEP and, on the fourth pitch of the afternoon, took Bachman yard. Bachman would go only ⅔ of an inning with two hits, three runs and a hit by pitch. Lady Flames then resorted to pitcher Elena Escobar who went the distance with 6.1 innings. 

The Miners had freshman from Carlsbad, N.M. Faith Aragon start the game off in the pitching circle and she went four innings pitched with nine hits, five walks and eight earned runs. UTEP then goes to Annika Litterio who faces four batters, two hit for singles and two for walks to load things up. Veteran Pitcher and the closer for the Miners Zaylie Calderon, who at one point lead the nation in saves with seven, entered the game with bases loaded and went the final two innings. Finishing with two hits, two earned runs, one walk and the Miners' lone strikeout of the night.  

Offensive Lifeline 

The thing that kept the Miners competitive all afternoon was their explosive offense, as it has all season. UTEP had a two run homer in the top of the second by Halle Hogan. In the top of the fourth, Netherlands native Marijin Crouwel blessed the few Miner fans in attendance with a three-run homer. 

Miners compounded the long ball with plenty of singles. Six Miners combined for 10 hits and 10 RBIs. Aija Richard was the definition of clutch by going 3-for-3. Lexi Morales tacked on two singles on top of her homer and Ashlynn Allen went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Those three Miners accounted for 70% of the team's Hits. When you add Marijin Crouwel to the list, they combine for 70% of the team's RBIs. 

Total Offensive Liberty 

Lady Flames came into the match motivated after their defeat against tournament host NMSU. And, they benefitted off huge performances by Marie Claire Wilson and Brynn McManus, which lifted Liberty to the next round. Wilson went 3-for-5 with an RBI and McManus went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a monstrous 6 RBIs. 

McManus had hands down the play of the game in the bottom of the fourth with bases loaded. She did this to shift all momentum and silence the crowd in the process.   


Liberty’s red hot bats coupled with their patience at the plate put a heavy strain on the UTEP bullpen. Lady Flames had 13 hits, eight walks and 12 RBIs. Ultimately the walks were the difference makers, Miners in contrast only forced two walks.  

Exceeding Expectations in 2024

Miners went 11-34 in 2023, winning only two conference games. Coupled with huge losses after the 2023 season dampened spirits coming into the 2024 season, but exceptional player and coaching additions by head coach TJ Hubbard quickly changed that narrative. 

Miners lost players like Savannah Favre, Peyton Angulo, Caitlyn Brockway, and Pate Cathey who made significant contributions on both sides of the ball last year. On offense they combined for 144 hits, 25 doubles, 25 homers and 99 RBIs in 2023. 

Pitching-wise it was a true blood bath. In 2023, the pitching staff had 301 innings pitched, they lost 7 of 8 pitchers who combined for 183.1 of those 301 innings. Luckily for the Miners their ace pitcher Zaylie Calderon would be the lone returner, coming back as a graduate transfer for the 2024 season.  

Championship additions 

Coach TJ Hubbard doesn't sulk in his woes, instead gets right to work and goes on a masterclass recruiting journey.  Adding Halle Hogan, Bri Garcia, Kenna Collett, Madi Mendoza, Faith Aragon (her siblings as well), Taja Felder, and associate head coach Brittney Matta.  

Coach Brittney Matta came as a “bundle deal” with Bri Garcia and Halle Hogan from Phoenix-based South Mountain Community College.  

Coach Matta was the head coach of the Cougars in 2019-23. In her final year her team outright won the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference title, making an appearance to the NJCAA Division II World Series in Spartanburg, S.C. Also winning Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. 

Brittney Matta is not just a champion on the Coaching side. Matta was a starter on the 2006 Arizona State team and could brag of being the only walk on. Won National championships as a player in 2008 and an undergraduate assistant coach in 2011 at Arizona State.  

Hot start that excites 

UTEP would start the 2024 season on a roll and win eight of their first ten games. Then going 4-of-5 out in Lubbock at the Jeannine McHaney Memorial Classic. They defeated Texas Tech in a 3-2 contest, and immediately followed it up by run-ruling Texas State on the first day of the tournament.  

Miners entered conference play with a 14-5 record, marking their best start since the 2000s.  

After the tumultuous season that was 2023 the Miners got busy improving themselves and that was immediately reflected, they go on to win twice as many games as they did last year. They won five times as many conference games, and the community rewarded them with a peak attendance of 687 on a Sunday Afternoon in late March.

Things only got worse in the CUSA Tournament, when the team traveled 45 minutes away from home to compete in play off softball and official attendance reads 498. You read that right. The UTEP Miners played a playoff game less than 100 miles from their home turf and not even 500 Miner fans showed up. It's the same fanbase that asks for a men's baseball team, yet they only put up 498 people in the stands for a pivotal softball game.  

I have no doubt in my mind that the UTEP softball program is in good hands with Hubbard. The additions in the offseason coupled with the improvement of players retained from the 2023 roster mark the program's progress and upward motion.  

I'm excited for some 2025 UTEP softball. 

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