Playing deep helps Black Hills hold off CMU
For three games, the Colorado Mesa University softball team punished Black Hills State for playing shallow in the outfield.
Finally, in the fourth game of the series Sunday afternoon at Bergman Field, the Yellowjackets backed up. After spraying 14 hits for an 8-0 win in Sunday’s opener, their third straight game shortened by the run rule, the Mavericks kept hitting fly balls in the finale.
This time, though, they were hit right at the outfielders in a 4-3 CMU loss.
“We’re a much better team when we hit the ball in the air,” CMU coach Candace Abrams said. “It took them three games, but they started playing us at the fence, pretty much. Half of those balls would have been base hits or doubles had they not been playing where they were.
“Credit to them, they took advantage of that. We’re not a team that hits little dying birds or a ground-ball team. We’re very much a fly-ball team.”
In the opener, Jessica Severinsen struck out five and allowed only three hits in a six-inning victory. Shortstop Makayla Kovac hit three doubles and drove in three runs, Lisa Pille went 3 for 4 with a home run and scored three runs, and Brooke Ortale drove home two more runs with three base hits.
After that game, the Yellowjackets started playing with their heels on the warning track and tracked down balls that had been rattling the fences.
They also struck early against Rachel Boothe, scoring three runs in the first inning.
Colorado Mesa (8-5-1, 5-1-1 RMAC) scratched out a run in the second and third, and Boothe led off the fourth with a home run, the Mavericks’ best chance to take control of the game.
Taylor Gross beat out a bunt single, and Camille Brimhall flied out to left-center. Pinch-hitter Megan Smith, one of the Mavs’ best power hitters, flied out to center, but Ortale drew a walk and Nicole Robinson drove a single to left, scoring Gross and pulling the Mavericks within one run, 4-3.
Pille’s bid for extra bases was caught in center field near the fence.
Cori Shreves came on to pitch in the second inning and kept the Yellowjackets within striking distance, allowing one run in the fourth. The freshman lefty struck out seven in five innings.
“As long as she keeps the ball down, she’s very, very effective, and she’s very dirty,” Abrams said of some nasty pitches Shreves threw that had Black Hills hitters fooled.
“It’s great to have that kind of pitcher. She’s not overpowering by any means, but if she keeps the ball down, she keeps hitters off balance.”
In the seventh, the Mavericks once again tried to rally.
With one out, Kovac reached on an error, and Severinsen singled to left. Boothe flied out to left, but the throw back to second sailed to first base, allowing the runners to move into scoring position for Gross.
Her line drive to right nearly got over Nia Shumpert’s head, but she tracked it down, but the ball popped out of her glove. That had the Mavs’ fans gasping at the thought of a dropped ball allowing Mesa to win the game, but Shumpert gathered the ball in for the win.
Abrams said the next step in the Mavs’ process is to keep pushing in the fourth game for a series sweep, something that’s hampered them in both conference series so far.
“The same thing happened in New Mexico. We got those first three wins and got the series win and then kind of put it on cruise control, slowed it down and just put it on the back burner,” she said. “You’ve got to take advantage of games like this, especially when you run-rule a team three times.”