UTEP Sluggers Continue Climb to the Top

2007 C-USA All-Conference Selection, Simone Holland

2007 C-USA All-Conference Selection, Simone Holland

Feb. 5, 2008

EL PASO, Texas - Since its 2004 inaugural season, the UTEP softball team has made steady improvements on its way to becoming a nationally recognized program.

Not only did UTEP end the 2007 campaign ranked nationally in six offensive categories, including top-10 finishes in doubles per game (0.98) and scoring (six runs per game), but the Miners secured their first winning season with a 28-23 (.549) mark. With eight seniors returning, three All-Conference players and a high-powered offense, the Miners are poised to achieve their next goal - securing a 30-win season.

"We are very excited," said co-head coach Kathleen Rodriguez. "We have all the amenities that are important in having a successful program at the NCAA Division I level. We are practicing with a whole new sense of purpose and commitment."

Rodriguez goes on to say, "Every starter on our team has at least one year of college experience under their belt, which leads to stronger confidence levels. The will to win is unlike anything that we have had here since we started the program. They are committed, driven and extremely loyal to one another."

The Orange and Blue will kick-off its 2008 campaign on the road at Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 8. After a one-year absence, the Miners will return to Las Vegas, Nev. to participate in the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic, an elite tournament featuring some the nation's top programs.

"Our pre-conference season will be filled with several teams that will test our abilities as well as help us to be competitive in the league," said Rodriguez.

The Miners open their conference slate at home on March 8 against UAB. UTEP will then take on I-10 rival New Mexico State before heading to Tulsa.

"Conference USA will be extremely competitive this season," Rodriguez said. "All the teams in our conference are very competitive and are extremely well coached."

Highlighting the schedule is a home series against defending NCAA champion, Arizona.



"This is a team that is highly recognized and respected because of their continued success," Rodriguez said. "It will be a great opportunity for the El Paso community to watch softball at its best."

The Miners will close out their season with home stints against Marshall, former Western Athletic Conference foe, Nevada, and UCF and Southern Miss. UTEP will conclude its 2008 regular season at Houston and will return to participate in the Conference USA Softball Championship in Houston.

The Miners return All-Conference selection Simone Holland alongside Amber Bennett, Katilyn Abdalla, Jennifer Davis, and newcomer Mariann Webb. Jennifer Stalter will make the move to the infield after playing outfield her sophomore season.

Holland, UTEP's all-time home run leader, batted .329 in 2007. She blasted eight long balls, including two grand slams. The first baseman recorded 249 putouts with just seven errors to field .974 on the season.

"Simone is a threat and a contributor in every aspect of this game," said Rodriguez. "By the end of this year, we expect that she will hold every hitting record in the history of this program."

Bennett ended 2007 ranked nationally in three statistical categories - walks per game, runs per game and hit-by-pitches per game. She batted .345 to rank second on the team while leading UTEP in several categories including runs, RBI, home runs and walks.

"Amber is extremely talented on both defense and offense. She is huge to the success of this team."

Stalter batted .206 with 24 runs on 37 hits, seven doubles, six home runs and 32 RBI.

"Stalter is coming into this season with a new sense of purpose. She has taken over the shortstop position and is running with it. She is a great leader who gets better and better everyday."

Rounding out the infield is letterwinner Abdalla, Davis and newcomer Webb. Look for them to fill in at first base, shortstop and second base. Abdalla saw action in 15 games last year and posted a .200 batting average.

"Katie has a great swing and is looking forward to putting it to good use this season," said Rodriguez. "We are extremely happy to have Jennifer Davis back. She brings with her prior playing experience with an added confidence, maturity and commitment, and Mariann will add depth and skill to our program."

Second team All-Conference USA selection Ashley Ellis returns to the outfield, as well as Ashley Perez, Megan Whiteaker and Andi Zolton.

Ellis ended her freshman campaign leading the Miners in batting average at .348. She connected for 54 hits to average 1.06 per game and blasted five home runs, including two grand slams.

"Ashley has worked hard this off-season and understands that the success that she enjoyed last season is going to make her a target," Rodriguez said. "She is taking this as a great challenge and is working extremely hard to help this team succeed."

Zolton played in all 51 games for the Miners, starting in centerfield. She connected for 27 hits, including two doubles, and registered nine RBI. Whiteaker notched 14 runs on 14 hits with two doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI while Perez had 13 runs on 17 hits with four doubles and eight RBI.

"Andi is not only a threat on offense, but is a great centerfielder. We will count heavily on her leadership. Perez is one of the strongest and most athletic ball players we have ever had the privilege of coaching. She can do it all. Megan is from the first ever signing class. She has matured with the team, and is key player in the success of not only this year's season, but the future of UTEP softball."

The Miners return just one letterwinner behind the plate - Rachel Schaeffer - and welcome freshman Camilla Carrera and junior transfer Shea Lodes to add depth to the position.

Schaeffer led the Miners in putouts with 295 and had 33 assists while committing just three errors for a fielding percentage of .991. She caught 12 runners stealing in 2007 to rate first on the team and fourth in the league. She picked off five runners, the most by any UTEP player in school history.

"Rachel is a huge inspiration to this team. Her work ethic, dedication and commitment to this team is amazing. Her will to win is important and we will rely heavily on her leadership as well."

A transfer from Tallahassee Community College, Lodes was named to the 2007 Easton All-American team while earning Louisville Slugger/NFCA NJCAA Division I All South Region honors. She batted .354 with 10 home runs and 31 RBI and helped the Eagles to a third place finish in the Panhandle Conference. Carrerra was a second team all-region selection at Mountain Pointe High School in Arizona.

"Shea will be able to come in and contribute right with her experience in the collegiate level. As an All-American, she will provide depth to the catching spot. Camilla works hard. She has extreme poise for a freshman and can play anywhere on the field."

The Miners return all-freshman honoree Stacie Townsend to the circle along with seniors Nichole Tunget and Renee DiPuccio and letterwinners Kelly Curran and Kandice Henry. New to the staff is El Paso native Claudia Oliva.

Townsend was named Conference USA Hitter of the Week on March 19 after leading the Miners past fifth-ranked Arizona State at the plate and in the circle. Starting in all 51 games for the Miners either in the circle or in the field, Townsend connected for 45 hits including 11 doubles and five home runs. In the circle, Townsend posted nine wins, the most by any freshman in school history.

"Stacie is another ballplayer that is important when talking about the success of this program. Her international experience is invaluable to this team. She will be key for us both on offense as well as on defense."

Tunget also recorded nine wins in the circle. She started 17 games with 23 total appearances. She fanned 78 batters and secured four saves, the most by a UTEP pitcher.

"Nichole brings solid pitching to our team and will have some key wins for us."

DiPuccio retired 48 batters in 39.1 innings in 17 appearances for UTEP. Curran won seven games and tossed 74.1 innings with 66 strikeouts and Henry was utilized mostly as a relief pitcher with eight appearances. Oliva, UTEP's only newcomer to the staff, was a three-time all-city selection while leading Eastwood to the Class 5A area title for the first time since the 1998 season.

"Renee is one of the "founding fathers" of this program. She will be a leader in the circle on in the dugout. Kelly has evolved into such a competitor. She has had a great and successful off-season. Kandi is a big part of our program in that she can come in and pitch for us when we are in a bind, whether it be one batter, an inning or a start we can count on her. Claudia will add depth to our program."

UTEP Athletics