EL PASO, Texas – Four outs away from the Conference USA regular season title, Louisiana Tech saw UTEP rally for the third straight game as the Miners plated five runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to defeat the Lady Techsters 6-5 Sunday afternoon at Helen of Troy Field.
Tech led 5-1 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning before four straight hits by UTEP, including a three-run home run by senior Kaitlyn Rider, plated five runs as the Miners took the lead.
With the loss Tech (33-21, 15-9) fell to the No. 4 seed in the upcoming Conference USA Tournament which starts Wednesday in Charlotte. Tech will face the winner of No. 5 seed Marshall vs. No. 8 seed WKU Wednesday at 4 p.m. CT. Tech must win the game in order to advance to the double elimination portion of the tournament on Thursday.
LA Tech was swept in the final weekend at FIU last year and entered the C-USA Tournament as the No. 3 seed before winning four games and capturing the tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
With FIU and FAU falling in games earlier in the day on Sunday, Tech had a chance to rebound from Saturday’s two losses to UTEP and claim the league title. The Lady Techsters plated two runs in the second inning on a two-run home run by Ali Galaz and added two more runs in the third inning, capitalizing on stolen bases and two throwing errors by UTEP catcher Linda Garcia.
Tech stole another run in the top of the fifth inning on a double steal to take a 5-0 advantage. Junior pitchers Preslee Gallaway and Krystal De La Cruz were both in the lineup as head coach Mark Montgomery shuffled back and forth all day between the two in the circle based on match-ups. The duo kept UTEP off the scoreboard until a two-out hit in the bottom of the fifth plated the first Miners run, cutting the Tech lead to 5-1.
UTEP then exploded in the bottom of the sixth. With two out and a runner on third base, a single plated a run to cut the advantage to 5-2. Montgomery turned to sophomore Jenny Chapman who surrendered a single by Clayton to put runners on the corners followed by a three-run home run by Ryder that tied the game at 5-5.
Gallaway re-entered the game but was met by back-to-back doubles by Kacey Duffield and Cortney Smith as UTEP took the 6-5 advantage.
Ten of UTEP’s 12 hits in the game came with two outs as the Miners were 10-for-16 at the plate with two outs during the game.
Crowder led Tech offensively with a 3-for-3 performance while Katie Smith added two hits and Galaz added her third home run of the season.
Gallaway (17-9) took the loss, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks with one strikeout over 4.0 innings of action.
Morgan Turkoly extended her streak of consecutive games reaching base safely to 40 with a pair of walks.
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