Versatility

Ability to play multiple positions will be key for Mesa softball players this season

Colorado Mesa’s Lisa Pille fields a ground ball at her new position, third base, Wednesday during practice. Pille, last season’s starting second baseman, was one of two starting infielders shifted by new coach Candace Abrams.



Jessica Severinsen, who transferred to Colorado Mesa from Northern Iowa — a Division I school — will be the Mavs’ primary starting pitcher this season.



QUICKREAD

On the mound

Softball is a pitcher’s game, and first-year CMU coach Candace Abrams is starting the season with two pitchers new to the program.

Jessica Severinsen, a junior from Elizabeth who played at Chaparral, transferred to CMU from Northern Iowa this season. She’ll be the Mavs’ No. 1 pitcher, with freshman Courtney Shreves, a 5-10 left-hander from Lancaster, Calif., throwing the second game. Ashley Pulido is recovering from shoulder surgery, and Abrams said the doctor is happy with her progress.

“Jess throws the ball extremely well. She’s very smart on the mound,” Abrams said. “Having a little bit of that D-I experience has helped her a little bit. She’s starting to grasp the concept of the game and thinking ahead, ‘If I throw this pitch, I’m setting her up. It may not be the pitch I want to throw, but I’m setting her up for another pitch.’ She’s starting to grasp that concept.

“Courtney is learning from her. I love having Jess in that leadership role, and I think she’ll really help Courtney. (Shreves) is a lefty and doesn’t have a ton of speed but has the potential for a lot of movement. She’s dangerous as a lefty because she can make that ball move, and it’s a different perspective to the hitters.”

Play ball!

CMU opens the season Friday at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Tucson, Ariz. Mesa plays Cal State-San Bernardino and Chowan (N.C.) University on Friday and West Texas A&M and Molloy (N.Y.) College on Saturday. Depending on their pool-play results, the Mavs will play two games in one of four brackets Sunday in the 18-team tournament that features seven ranked teams, three in the top 10.

Position breakdown

Here’s a look at the Mavericks by position, with projected starters listed first and last season’s statistics where applicable.

Pitcher

Jessica Severinsen, 5-8, Jr., 3-2, 3.03 ERA (at Northern Iowa).

Courtney Shreves, 5-10, Fr.

Ashley Pulido, 5-5, Jr., 10-10, 4.52 ERA, 73 K.

Catcher

Megan Smith, 6-0, Sr., .376, 8 HR, 8 2B, 31 RBI.

Caitlin Pattee, 5-8, Rfr.

Brooke Huddleston, 5-4, Fr.

First base

Lindsay Drayer, 5-7, Jr., .300, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 3-4 SB.

Nicole Robinson, 5-3, Fr.

Second base

Taylor Gross, 5-3, Sr., .270, 3 HR, 9 2B, 21 RBI.

Robinson

Shortstop

Makayla Kovac, 5-5, Fr.

Gross

Third base

Lisa Pille, 5-4 Sr., .342, 8 HR, 17 2B, 45 RBI, 6-6 SB, has started every game of her career.

Robinson

Outfield

Rachel Boothe, 5-6, Soph., .350, 3 R, 2-2 SB.

Tawnee Woosley, 5-2, Soph., .202, 3 2B, 5 RBI.

Megan Brown, 5-4, Fr.

Brooke Ortale, 5-1, Soph., .333, 16 RBI.

Camille Brimhall, 5-8, Sr., .000, 3 GP



With a new coach, it’s often the case that every position is up for grabs.

That sure is the case for the Colorado Mesa University softball team.

Three starting position players, all seniors, returned this season. First-year coach Candace Abrams moved two of them to different spots on the field.

Lisa Pille, a mainstay at second base the past three years, has moved to third base, with shortstop Taylor Gross playing second.

The third starter, power hitter Megan Smith, is still behind the plate.

“We looked at the bigger picture and what was going to work for us, and that required some of those girls moving,” Abrams said. “If you’re an athlete, that’s one thing we’ve been stressing from Day 1, you don’t know where you’re going to play. Right now I’ve taken two outfielders and brought them into the infield, and I took an infielder and put her in the outfield.

“As long as they’re versatile and willing to do it, it can work.”

Abrams drills all of the infielders at every position.

“It’s everybody go to third base, you’re all taking ground balls at third today,” she said. “It’s something that we make sure: Do you know what the first baseman needs to do in this situation? Everybody is responsible for knowing everything.”

With only 16 players on the roster, versatility will be the key to the Mavs’ success this spring. Four players have quit since practice started, and a fourth player with experience from last season, junior pitcher Ashley Pulido, is coming off labrum surgery. She’s starting to throw again and hopes to be able to pitch this season.

“Any kind of surgery is tough. It depends on the person, the athlete and their mind-set,” Abrams said. “She’s very gung-ho and driven and motivated. We’re just making sure she’s not doing too much.”

Right now, the Mavs have two pitchers, both new to the program. Junior Jessica Severinsen transferred from Division I Northern Iowa and is helping teach freshman left-hander Courtney Shreves the ropes of being a college pitcher.

Abrams, who played and was an assistant coach at the University of Arizona, isn’t one to play conventional softball. Instead of having her speedy left-handed slap hitter at the top of the lineup, she’s going with the veteran Pille to lead off.

She’ll mix her lineup as needed depending on opposing pitchers, and instead of loading up her outfield speed in center and left, she might go with more speed on the corners, the better to cover the lines and help the center fielder on gap balls.

In the outfield are Megan Brown in left, Tawnee Woosley in center and Rachel Boothe or Brooke Ortale in right. Woosley, who played infield and hit right-handed last season, has moved to the left side of the plate to take advantage of her speed as a slap hitter.

And if you can move infielders around, you can take outfielders and make them first basemen. Lindsay Drayer, a junior who has played outfield, will play first base, where the Mavs had some of that early season attrition.

“She played a little infield, but up the middle,” Abrams said. “You stick somebody at a corner, and it’s very quick. Right now the game feels a little fast for her, but she’s starting to pick up some things, and I think she’ll do a great job for us there.”

Makayla Kovac, a freshman from Erie, will start at shortstop. Abrams figures Kovac will have “freshman days,” but is confident she’ll shine.

“She’s going to have her moments, but I know without a doubt, in the seventh inning she’s going to come up with that ESPN play and do it when it counts,” Abrams said.

The Mavericks will be aggressive on the bases, and Abrams expects a solid defensive team, and one that studies the game.

“One thing we’ve told our kids, I will err on the side of aggressiveness all day long,” Abrams said. “I will take an aggressive mistake over a passive mistake any day. If the pitcher releases the ball and you see that ball in the dirt and you go and the catcher throws you out, you tried. That’s an aggressive mistake.

“It’s the hesitation and then you go, and I’ll get on you for (it).

“We’ve preached: Use your eyes, use your head, be a student of the game. Look at the whole field and say, ‘OK, where can I give a little bit more, take an extra base and be a little smarter in that situation.’ They’re starting to catch on.”


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