Bailey helping hold Mavs together by filling void for injured All-RMAC third baseman
For the first half-dozen games of the softball season, Whitney Bailey watched Lauren Cross play third base.
She soaked up all she could, watching every play, studying the All-RMAC third baseman’s footwork, her positioning on the field, everything.
“I would watch her all the time and I was like, ‘That’s what I need to look like,’ ‘’ Bailey said.
Then, Cross injured her left ankle, and Bailey’s days in the dugout were over.
She isn’t done learning from Cross, however.
“I talk to her a lot because I didn’t know a lot about third,” said Bailey, a catcher all through high school. “I went to her and we talked at practice. She’s been a big help with it.”
Cross fractured a bone and tore ligaments in the ankle and is out for the season. Now, she’s the one watching from the dugout as her prot&233;g&233; is learning on the fly.
“I was brand-new at third last year,” Cross said. “I used to play middle infield and jumped from there to third and I didn’t have anybody to help me out there.
“I love that she takes everything I say (to heart). I love her; she’s a great kid.”
That kid from Austin, Texas, is no longer a kid. She showed that last weekend, starting two double plays and making only one error in 17 chances. She also hit .307 and drove in three runs in the four-game series against CSU-Pueblo.
Bailey has gone from a player who was trying to think her way through a game to one who’s just playing the game.
“She’s not nervous any more,” Cross said. “She used to look into the dugout and look at me with a blank stare. I’d tell her, calm down, relax. She finally just got it.
“It’s a whole new world going to college and she finally found it and is playing great. She’s relaxing, not stressing.”
Bailey wasn’t the only freshman who came through last week.
The other two everyday players, catcher Megan Smith and second baseman Lisa Pille, hit in clutch situations and came up with big defensive plays, and freshman pitcher Wailana Borrero threw well in relief Friday and earned a start in the final game of the series.
The Mavericks (10-12, 8-12 RMAC) play at New Mexico Highlands (11-17, 7-12) on Friday and Saturday as they try to move up in the RMAC standings.
Mesa State is eighth overall, with the top eight teams reaching the tournament.
“We know our potential and now we’re starting to play at our potential,” Bailey said. “Everyone is starting to do their role. It’s like Coach (Kris) Mort says, be a part of it.”
Bailey is used to blocking pitches and having players slide into her at the plate. Having line drives hit at her at third was a whole different thing.
“Shock value,” she said, laughing. “It’s one of those things, you put your hands up and it’s there. Once you work at it, I’ve gotten a lot quicker. You start getting the hang of it after a few shots are hit at you.”
She stayed after practice and took extra ground balls as she was learning the nuances of third.
“Quicker footwork and staying down on the ball,” she said of the top of her to-do list. “I had trouble with that at the beginning of the season, I was coming up on the ball a lot, but we worked on it after practice, staying down, and that helped a lot.”
As Bailey and the rest of the freshmen grow into their roles, the Mavericks have played better and better.
“We had a team talk and we all talked about what we expect out of each other,” Bailey said. “It was time for (the young players) to step up and we did. The seniors talked to us and they are encouraging us. I know I feel like I can do anything if I work at it.”