Mavs hope to prolong surge in softball tourney
Ask any of the Mesa State College softball players about how they’re playing right now and they’ll tell you they’re peaking at the right time.
“Everybody played great and that’s good to see going into the tournament,” senior catcher Meagan Hennessy said after the Mavericks split with RMAC West Division champion Adams State last weekend. “We’re peaking at the right time.”
Ask coach Kris Mort and she’ll dispel that talk.
“Everybody talks about peaking in May and peaking at the end of the year, but truly, this team has gotten better in the month of April,” Mort said. “They really have. There’s something to be said about that. It’s such a cliche term, peak at the end of the season, but this team has really gotten better at the end.”
The Mavericks, who only a few weeks ago were a longshot to even make the RMAC tournament, which begins today in Denver, turned things around and have gone 10-2 the past three weeks.
Mesa State (23-17) drew the No. 6 seed and plays third-seeded Colorado School of Mines (36-15) at 9:30 this morning at Regis University.
The winner of that game plays Friday morning against the winner between Fort Lewis and Adams State. The loser of this morning’s games play an elimination game this afternoon.
The RMAC tournament winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Central Regional tournament. The Mavericks dropped to 10th in this week’s regional poll, trading places with Adams State. Eight teams receive invitations to the regionals. The Orediggers are ranked third in the region, so a win over Mines could help the Mavs’ cause to reach the first round of the national playoffs.
Mesa State split with Mines and Adams State and took three of four from Fort Lewis this season. The Mavericks lost all four games against top-seeded Metro State to open the conference season and spent the next month regrouping.
In the top half of the bracket, Nebraska-Kearney (15-26) is the only team to make the tournament the Mavericks didn’t play this season. A trip to Nebraska to play Chadron State and Kearney was scrubbed before the Mavericks even left town because of a snow storm, and they lost two games at CSU-Pueblo the week before, with the final two games snowed out.
Still, that trip to Pueblo turned things around for Mesa State, which came home 13-15, 9-13 in conference play.
Mort had a long talk with baseball coach Chris Hanks and the Mavericks came up with expectations for themselves and their teammates.
Since then, they’ve forgotten about winning and losing and concentrated on playing hard for
one another. Hanks gave Mort an acronym his team plays by: What’s Important Now. The softball team has taken that and run with it.
“We’ve really gotten away from winning this game, we’ve gotta win this game, we’ve gotta go 2-2,” Mort said. “You don’t have to win any games. We have to learn life lessons out here and we’ve got to graduate from college, but we don’t have to win any games. We have to do things right.”
Mort wants to see the Mavericks win the RMAC tournament and reach the regionals more as a reward for how they’ve hung together this season.
“I’m really proud of this group,” she said. “They’ve done what they said they wanted each other to do and have done what they said they would do.
“This is more about doing what they’ve asked of each other, not what I’ve asked of them.”