There will be no love lost between the rival New Mexico State and UTEP softball teams when they challenge each other for the Hotel Encanto Invitational championship trophy during a Valentine's Day battle slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday evening at the NM State Softball Complex.
Each of the I-10 rivals stands at 4-0 after one weekend of the season. NM State defeated four opponents including two NCAA squads from last season in Indiana and UIC over the first three days of the tournament. UTEP also defeated UIC but the Miners' matchup with IU was canceled Sunday morning due to inclement weather.
In the rivals' last meeting Aggie head coach Kathy Rodolph earned her 400th career victory after a 1-0 win against UTEP, her alma mater, on March 9 in Las Cruces. Departed senior Vanessa Valles was the hero in the victory with a solo home run - the first of her Aggie career - to score the game's only run.
NM State swept the series in 2011 also defeating the Miners 8-6 on Feb. 24 en route to the UTEP Invitational title. However, UTEP swept the Aggies in the two-game series in 2010.
Six Aggies with at least eight at-bats are hitting above .350 after the first weekend. The four-game starters include freshman Briana Tovio-Asato (.571), senior Tiare Jennings (.462), sophomore Valerie Swedberg (.429) and freshman Staci Rodriguez (.357). Freshman Malena Padilla boasts a .750 average in eight at-bats and three games played. Junior Amber Olive has recorded a .600 average at the dish from the leadoff position in 10 at-bats spanning three games.
Jennings hit two home runs in the same inning against St. Mary's on Sunday and also hit for the cycle over the weekend's four games with two home runs, a triple, two doubles and a single. She leads the team with seven RBI, 16 total bases and a 1.231 slugging percentage.
Junior Alex Newman led the Aggies in the circle. She went 3-0 last weekend after two starts and four appearances. Newman gave up 10 earned runs in 16 innings of work. She also posted 11 strikeouts on the weekend to just four walks. Sophomore Celisha Walker also excelled in the circle by earning the other Aggie win last weekend and the lone save for NM State.
UTEP is led at the plate by three players that boast four starts and batting averages at or above .500. Senior Camille Carrera is hitting .692 and has already blasted four home runs, an average of one per game. Miner Chelsea Troupe has hit two homers this season and carries a .643 average. UTEP's Courtney Ware is batting .500 this season with five hits.
In the circle for UTEP, Colleen Holman is 1-0 with an ERA of 3.09 allowing five earned runs in 11.1 innings. Cynthia Villastrigo is 3-0 with a 4.30 ERA surrendering nine earned runs over 14.2 innings pitched.