Colorado Mesa softball team has multitude of options at each position
Candace Abrams is part softball coach, part riverboat gambler, part mad scientist.
“You kind of have to be in the game of softball,” Colorado Mesa’s second-year coach said. “You have to be very strategic.”
You also have to be flexible, which could be the buzzword of the season this spring for the Mavericks, who are picked to win the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title.
Outdoor practices have been few and far between, and practicing on the softball diamond at Bergman Field hasn’t been a consistent option. Instead, the Mavs have been in the Maverick Pavilion indoor facility and occasionally have ventured outside to one of the turfed fields, either Walker Field when the lacrosse teams aren’t practicing or on the football practice field.
So, you’ll forgive Abrams for chuckling when asked to run down her lineup. It’s truly a “Who’s on First?” quandary.
Two positions are unquestioned — Jessica Severinsen will be one of four pitchers taking turns in the circle, and Makayla Kovac will be at shortstop.
Severinsen earned all-RMAC and all-region honors last season and is the RMAC preseason pitcher of the year. Kovac, a first-team all-RMAC performer as a freshman, is a preseason all-conference pick as a sophomore.
Abrams has options — more options than you can imagine — when it comes to who will be at each position, and where they’ll hit this spring.
Does Kovac hit in front or behind Severinsen? Are they 3-4 or 4-5 in the lineup? Abrams said if teams opt to walk the Mavs’ two top hitters, she might just put them at the top of the batting order and gladly take those two free base runners.
“You should see how many lineups I’ve come up with,” she said, laughing again. “It’s a great problem to have. I could do this, I could do that, I could do this ... oh, my gosh, I don’t know what to do. All right, somebody pick one.”
Not bad for a team that hasn’t had a full intrasquad scrimmage yet.
More could be settled after this weekend, when the Mavericks play five games in the West Texas A&M tournament in Canyon, Texas, in what became an RMAC vs. Lone Star invitational.
Mesa plays Tarleton State twice and opens with No. 17 Angelo State on Friday. Saturday the Mavs, who received votes in the Division II preseason poll, face No. 8 West Texas A&M.
For some coaches, opening against a nationally ranked team could be cause for concern. Not so for Abrams.
“That’s always a good place to start,” she said. “I don’t expect anything less than five wins, or we’d better be giving them good games.”
That’s not bravado talking — Abrams thinks she’s got something special. She loves being picked to win the conference, because it’s what she’s used to after playing and coaching at the University of Arizona.
“The target was always on our back. I love that challenge of saying, ‘You know what? Come and get us. I’m not going to let you take it,’ ” she said. “I love being the team to chase. I challenge the girls to keep it, don’t let anyone take it, take the target off your back and put it on their chest and go after them.”
One thing that could play in CMU’s favor, Abrams said, is the Mavericks are young but experienced. Despite having only three seniors, she returns the majority of the team from last season. One of those seniors is off the injured list, pitcher Ashley Pulido, who missed the majority of last season with a shoulder injury.
Severinsen is a senior, as is strong-armed outfielder Lindsay Drayer, and there are only four juniors on the roster.
Kovac is only a sophomore, as is left-handed pitcher Courtney Shreves and first baseman Nicole Robinson, who’s on the preseason all-RMAC team and could play a variety of infield spots.
“She’s my little gamer,” Abrams said of Robinson, who is only 5-foot-3 and came to CMU as a middle infielder last year. The Mavs, though, didn’t have a first baseman, so she moved over.
Robinson could end up playing second base, with Brooke Ortale moving in from the outfield to play first.
Severinsen can also play first, but will more likely be the designated player when she’s not pitching. That keeps her bat in the lineup and helps protect her from overuse and injury.
Junior second baseman Madelyn Schulz transferred from Utah Valley and can also play third, with freshman Sarah Phillis a promising corner infielder.
Tawnee Woosley, Megan Brown, Rachel Boothe and Drayer are the top candidates to play in the outfield, with Fruita Monument graduate Mariaha O’dell pushing for playing time with her power from the left side of the plate.
“She’s a strong kid for her size, and it’s fun when she gets ahold of one,” Abrams said. “She has some of the quickest hands from the left side as a hitter. She gets through the zone, and her strength takes over. I’m hoping to see a few in the middle of the (football practice field) from her this year as she grows and learns.”
“Pretty much everything’s open,” Abrams said. “It’s up to whoever wants to take it, and that gives us the competition aspect in practice.”