Colorado Mesa baseball team focused on UCCS after emotional week
Slowly but surely, the Colorado Mesa baseball team is climbing off the emotional roller coaster.
The death of teammate Ryan Teixeira last week was emotionally draining, but was also a galvanizing force for the No. 17 Mavericks (11-5, 4-0 RMAC).
“Now that we’re able to come to peace with what’s happened, I think a lot of guys are trying to turn the page,” Garrett Ball said. “Ryan is not forgotten, he lives within the hearts of every one of us. I think we’re going to continue to honor him by the way we play and prepare. I think this week we’re going to have a good week of practice and use that to go in and get ready for this weekend.
“Last weekend was tough, but I definitely think it’s important that everyone stays strong and this week tries to get their minds right and geared toward our opponent, which I think we’ll do.”
The opponent this week is a first-year program, but one that hasn’t played like a new team. CU-Colorado Springs announced more than a year ago it was starting baseball, hired Dave Hajek and gave him a full year to recruit.
The Mountain Lions (8-7, 3-1) won their first conference series against Regis last week, and took two of three in a nonconference series at CSU-Pueblo.
Hajek brought in a number of junior college transfers — only five freshmen are on the active roster, including starting shortstop Matthew McDermott, the younger brother of CMU pitcher JR McDermott.
“They wanted to start a program and be able to compete. You can’t do it with all freshmen, you just can’t do it. You have to get junior college players and in order to do that, you have to have enough scholarships so you can attract better-than-average junior college kids, which they have,” Hanks said.
By and large, CMU got back to playing the way Hanks demands last week, competing hard, doing the little things right, like executing bunts and moving runners. The pitchers got a lot of ground-ball outs and other than not getting ahead of hitters consistently, limited damage.
And, Hanks said, through their grief, they found themselves.
“The heart and soul of our team is Ryan Teixeira and what he stood for, the way he went about his business both on the field and off the field, which is also impressive. He was such a unique individual,” Hanks said.
“Every year there’s a different twist (to a team’s identity). I think Ryan was put on this earth to make people better, and that’s what he’s done and what he’s doing and will continue to do. I firmly believe that.”
Now that the flu bug has run its course and they don’t have to climb back on the bus for two more weeks, the Mavericks think they can hit their stride.
“I think the other thing that really helps out, losing a game (two of three at Chadron State) in the RMAC kind of puts us behind,” CMU coach Ben Garcia said.
“We can transfer that energy somewhere else to make sure we’re now pushing to get back on top. There’s nobody on top that’s going to give us a break and say we’ll wait for you. We’ve got to go get the game, so that gives us a little more incentive, too.”
The Mavericks (12-4, 5-2 RMAC), fourth in the RMAC standings, are home Saturday and Sunday against New Mexico Highlands (6-15, 3-5), a team that, like Adams State last week, has struggled to pitch well, but can hit the ball. Katelyn Bates already has nine home runs this season for Highlands.
Mesa, though, has outscored its opponents 128-55, putting up an average of eight runs a game and allowing 3.4. The Mavericks, who fell out of the national rankings this week despite going 4-0, are 10-0 when they score at least six runs a game. They’ve had a tendency to come out of the gates strong, scoring 38 runs in the first inning and allowing only three.
With a veteran team returning, Garcia has mixed in a couple of transfers and freshmen this season, including junior outfielder Maggie Manwarren, a transfer from Southern Nevada.
She’s hitting .500, second only to Brooke Hodgson (.532) and has stolen eight bases in eight attempts. Manwarren has the best on-base percentage on the team at .556.
“My role is to be a table-setter, and when I get on base, the table-clearers can hit me in,” she said.
“This team has meshed so well and we play together so well. If I’m not going well, I know somebody is going to be behind me either pushing me to do better or they’re going to be doing just as well. Everybody plays to the same level.”
And that level, Garcia said, needs to be elite.
“My comment on a day-to-day basis at practice is we’re not normal players,” he said. “We’re a step above, we need to play a step above to get where we need to be. If not, we’ll be like all the teams battling in the middle.”