New Mesa softball coach signs 5 for 2014 season

Candace Abrams hasn’t coached an actual softball game at Colorado Mesa University yet, but she’s already signed a handful of players for her second season.

“That’s the way the game works,” the Mavericks’ first-year coach said Tuesday, finally able to take a break from recruiting. “You’re always a year ahead.”

Abrams has gotten to know her current team through fall practice and a couple of scrimmage games, and based on how many seniors she has, she knew some of the holes she’d need to fill and where the Mavericks could use some depth after this spring.

“First of all I looked at my seniors and what I’m losing. Two infielders, an outfielder and a catcher,” she said. “From that perspective, now you look at what underclassmen do I have to fill and that’s where you start.”

She started in town, signing all-state middle infielder/outfielder Mariaha O’Dell from Fruita Monument.

“Mariaha is a big hitter who has a lot of power,” Abrams said in a release announcing her early signings. “She brings a great attitude and good instincts for the game. She will make an impact both offensively and defensively for us.”

The other four signings were a matter of A) Colorado Mesa being in the right place at the right time, and B) Abrams’ contacts and attending camps.

Jo Bolyard, who attends Peak to Peak Charter School, falls into the A) category. She was on her way to a tournament and made a pit stop in Grand Junction.

“They saw there was a school here and pulled off the freeway,” Abrams said. “She liked the campus and contacted (former coach Kris Mort). She came to the pitcher-catcher camp that I was here for and I liked what she had to offer.”

Bolyard is a hard-throwing pitcher with good command of her pitches, who can also play either first or third base. Two sisters, Lindsay and Hayley, play softball at Fort Lewis.

Abrams gave lessons to one soon-to-be Maverick, Karissa Nickeson, a catcher/first baseman from Bakersfield, Calif.

“I’ve known her since she was 12,” Abrams said. “I used to give her lessons and she was on the first travel team I coached. As she got older, I went off to college and she continued to progress and got better.

“One of my assistants coached her until a couple of years ago. She’s had some different coaches and has kept going in the right direction.”

Alanna Beck, from Saratoga Springs, Utah, is a pitcher/first baseman whom Abrams noticed at the Mavs’ pitcher-catcher camp.

“Alanna is a young lady that brings fight to the circle,” Abrams said in the release. “Her long levers and height give her the potential to be a very good pitcher. Alanna is a very composed pitcher on the mound and is one who thrives under the pressure.”

Abrams attended the Mizuno USA prep camp and found Sarah Phillis, out of Placerville, Calif., and signed her over the weekend to round out her first recruiting class. She expects Phillis to make an immediate impact in the spring of 2014.

“Her natural athletic makeup and competitiveness made it just hard for the CMU staff to overlook,” Abrams said in the release.

She and her two assistant coaches, Ryan Wigley and Mercedes Lovato, both of whom coached at California Lutheran, a Division III school, work a lot of camps and identified players through that process.

“I give them a lot of credit,” she said. “They work camps quite often and with that, camps have a great range of athletes. Some are D-I only, but some can play anywhere, at all levels.

“That’s nice for me, it opens the door for a lot of kids. They want to play in that small-school environment but at a Division I level.”

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