Bizarre day: Snow, strange plays, protest part of Mavs’ DH split

Mesa State catcher Megan Smith successfully blocks the plate Saturday as Western New Mexico’s Ashly Eichenberger tries to score, but loses the ball. Smith tagged out Eichenberger before she touched the plate, but the Mavs lost Game 1 7-2. Mesa State won Game 2 8-3.



Just about everything is new to college freshmen, but Ashley Pulido had never seen this before.

“First time playing in the snow,” the Mesa State College softball team’s pitcher said Saturday after the snow started flying in the third inning of the second game of a doubleheader at Bergman Field.

Then again, they don’t get much snow in Ojai, Calif., Pulido’s home town.

The freshman shrugged off the cold, wind and the white flakes and pitched a solid five-hitter to help the Mavericks split the doubleheader against Western New Mexico. The Mustangs won a game full of bizarre plays 7-2 in the opener, but the Mavericks took the second 8-3 to remain one game back of Western New Mexico in the RMAC West Division.

“New Mexico had a really good pitcher the first game (Bri Robles), a lot of movement, the best pitcher we’ve seen all year,” said Taylor Gross, who was involved in one of the strangest plays of the season in the fifth inning.

The first game was played under protest by Mesa State coach Kris Mort after she challenged an illegal bat used by the Mustangs’ Sarah Byrne.

The bat was declared illegal Friday.

With two out in the fifth, Byrne came to the plate and pitcher Sara Jordan called Mort to the pitching circle. The two talked for a few minutes, then Mort talked to home plate umpire Matt Johnson. He, in turn, conferred with base umpire Larry Neth, and removed the bat from the field.

In the bottom of the fifth, Mort officially protested the game.

“They should have ejected the coach for permitting his team to use illegal equipment,” Mort said. “That’s the ruling. They didn’t eject the coach so I protested the game and we’ll see where it goes.”

Had Byrne stepped into the batter’s box with the illegal bat and the Mavs then called it to the umpire’s attention, she could have been called out.

Jordan noticed the bat because it’s the same one she likes to use, and told Mort, “If I can’t swing it, she can’t.”

Right after the protest was issued, it got even stranger. Gross drove a ball to the gap in right-center and wheeled around second, determined to get a triple.

Shannon McClenahan scored the Mavs’ second run of the game on the hit, and Gross was met a couple of feet in front of the bag by third baseman Courtney Graf.

Gross, who slid head-first, and Graf started pushing one another, and finally, Gross clawed her way to the base. The umpire, who was on the home-plate side of the bag, called her safe.

“When I got there, she already had the ball,” Gross said. “I was hosed, but there was no call, so I stuck my hand in her glove and knocked the ball out. I took the ball out of her glove and she couldn’t find it and I kept reaching for the bag. Anything to be safe.”

“They were like two little kids fighting over the ball,” Mort said. “It’s one of those things we teach them to do. If you can knock the ball out of the glove, knock it out of the glove.”

Pulido allowed only a three-run home run to Byrne in the second game, struck out five and walked five. Mesa got a three-run home run in the first from Lauren Cross, added three more in the second and added two in the fifth.

“She’s really coming on and getting the experience she needs,” Mort said of Pulido. “She’s gaining command of her pitches. I’m excited for her and really pleased with how her freshman season has gone. Usually I’m a little nervous about freshman pitchers, but she’s done what she needs to do with it and I couldn’t be more pleased with her performance.”

Pulido said she picked up a lot of confidence with a complete-game win and a save last week in Pueblo.

“I was definitely mentally prepared,” she said. “This is my game. You just have to go out and know it’s your game and be in control. That definitely helped me (last week) going out there and pitching that first game. I know I can do this; that definitely helped me with that.”

The Mavs need to sweep today’s doubleheader on Senior Day to win the West and clinch the No. 2 seed in next week’s RMAC tournament.

“One thing this group does is fight,” Mort said before taking the field in the annual alumni slow pitch game. “They don’t just roll over and let you beat them twice.”


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