Big innings carry Mesa softball team to DH sweep of Highlands

Speed at the top, followed by nothing but power.

It was a recipe for a couple of runaway victories Saturday for the Colorado Mesa softball team, which crushed New Mexico Highlands 13-0, 9-1 on the strength of six home runs.

AnnMarie Torres was one of the beneficiaries of CMU’s top-end speed, hitting home runs in each game.

“They do a great job of getting on and letting whoever’s behind them get RBIs,” said Torres, who drove in eight runs in the doubleheader.

Ben Garcia moved Maggie Manwarren to the top of the lineup a couple of weeks ago, and the speed demon right fielder has been unstoppable ever since.

She beat out two infield singles in the opener. In the first inning, right after Manwarren’s single to third, Alex Dufour, who’s no slouch in the speed department herself, beat out an infield single to short.

Up came Torres, who jumped on the first pitch she saw and drove it over the center field wall.

“I don’t really think when I get up to bat, because that’s when mistakes happen,” the freshman first baseman said. “I just clear my head and if I see a good pitch, I’ll swing.”

The Mavericks, who batted around in the first, scored six runs in the second inning and sent 10 hitters to the plate. Tyneesha Houkamau hit her first home run of the season to center, a three-run shot, and Kaila Jacobi followed with a two-out line drive over the left-field wall.

Back-to-back doubles by Kellie Mrofcza and Baylee Boren made it 9-0, and that lead was more than comfortable enough for Garcia to allow pitcher McKenzie Surface an at-bat in the third inning.

She didn’t waste it. With one run already home and Brooke Hodgson on second, Surface crushed her first college home run past the scoreboard in left-center.

“Kenz has always wanted to hit, and it’s been tough for me to keep her down,” Garcia said. “She’s in the cage every single day swinging, and I thought today was a good day to give her an opportunity, and what a way to come through.”

Surface (8-3) struck out four in three innings in the opener for the win, and Kimbri Herring (4-0) struck out four in four innings of the second game, which was also shortened by the run rule.

Speed again paid dividends, with Manwarren walking to lead off the bottom of the first. Dufour bunted her over, but Manwarren didn’t slow down at second. With Dufour bunting to third, it left the bag uncovered, and Manwarren easily made it on the two-base sacrifice bunt. She scored on a fly ball to right by Torres.

“It’s a lot easier to play when you’re up, it really relaxes us and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Garcia said. “Maggie has done a wonderful job ever since she’s been in that leadoff spot. She just scores. She gets on base, she scores probably 90 percent of the time.”

The second inning was the big one for CMU (14-4, 7-2 RMAC), which batted around and scored six runs on four hits. Mrofcza led off the inning with a solo shot to left and the Mavericks loaded the bases for Torres.

She took the “don’t think, just swing” approach and crushed a grand slam to left.

“AnnMarie is really swinging the bat right now,” Garcia said. “I really like where she’s at in the zone. She knows where she needs to hit the ball, you’re not going to see her strike out a lot. She’s going to hit it somewhere.”

Mesa manufactured two runs in the third to put the run rule in effect for the fifth time in the past six games.

Garcia loves decisive wins, but it also creates a problem, albeit a good one.

“One of the things I told the coaching staff, ‘I don’t want to make wholesale changes,’ and I did that the first game,” Garcia said after swapping out nearly every position player.

“I caught myself thinking I want to give them an opportunity because they work their tails off in practice but I really want to make sure that continuity of those starters is happening.

“Five innings goes quick.”


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