Interchangeable: Even with new players in new roles, Mavs continue to win
It’s all in the timing.
With the RMAC softball pod get-togethers starting today, Mesa State is looking to make a move in the conference standings.
The 12 conference teams are split into three groups this weekend, with the Mavericks (13-13, 11-13 RMAC) hosting Colorado School of Mines, CU-Colorado Springs and Fort Lewis.
The Mavericks won three of four at New Mexico Highlands last week and coach Kris Mort liked how Mesa made adjustments at the plate against the Cowboys’ riseball pitcher, Melissa Martinez.
They won three games despite a handful of lineup changes — starting shortstop Katie Mitchell sustained a bad concussion Saturday trying to score. The throw to the plate was up the third-base line and the Highlands catcher collided with Mitchell, who was just starting to slide. She was knocked to the ground and hit the back of her head hard on the field.
Her replacement, Taylor Gross, sliced the back of her foot open when a Highlands player caught her with a cleat at second. The gash required five stitches and she wasn’t able to play Sunday.
Dani Vallie moved in from left to play short, with Gabi Parra moving from center to left and Alaina Brennan playing center.
Mort is hoping to have her lineup back in order this weekend if Mitchell is cleared to play.
Mesa State swept UCCS (11-25, 8-19) in a nonconference doubleheader the first week of the season.
“They’ve shown signs of being able to hit the ball and win some games against quality opponents, just like we have,” Mort said. “The one thing we need to capitalize on is that they’re coming off getting beat up pretty good by Metro.
“I know my kids know how they feel right now. You hope to be able to capitalize on it and that they haven’t recovered from it yet and get some wins where we need to get some wins.”
The Mavs haven’t faced Mines (16-19, 12-14) since the RMAC tournament last spring.
“We match up well with Mines,” Mort said. “I think we lost three of four against them during the season and then came back and beat them twice in the conference tournament.
“It was a stepping stone, where we felt we could measure our success last year.”
Fans who like to see good hitting will like this grouping, but those hitters will have to go up against some good pitching and defense. The Mavs’ Sara Jordan allowed only nine hits in 141⁄3 innings last weekend.
“All four teams are good-hitting teams,” Mort said. “You’ll see some good hitting. I think the pitching is going to need to be on for whoever wins.”
Most years you could arrive at the ballpark and pretty much know the lineup for the Mesa State College baseball team.
This season, though, not even coach Chris Hanks is sure of his starting nine until he has to fill out the lineup card.
“I’m going with gut feeling on some things,” said Hanks, who penciled in a different lineup in each of Mesa State’s four games last week, all four of them wins.
Hanks had talked to the Mavericks (22-11, 18-7 RMAC) about how they could become “a special team,” he said. “I know this team isn’t going to be special by running the same guys out every day.
“This team will be special because everybody’s ready to play. You could be in the lineup for two or three games and for no particular reason you’ll be out for the next four or five games.”
Just a few of Hanks’ options last week in a sweep of Colorado School of Mines:
Kevin Becker, the starting second baseman, moved to center when Brian Bello injured an ankle.
Peter Arakawa, limited early this season because of a labrum tear in his right shoulder, took over and played solid defense and went 4 for 9 with two doubles and a triple and drove in five runs.
Erik Nordine started at second base one game, but also played left field.
Austin Buck is back at short now that his turf toe has improved. Ken Evanson, who played short when Buck was out, has made the transition to third base.
Brett Nigbur, the RMAC player of the week, has become the No. 1 catcher, but the Mavs have options there, too.
Sunday, Nigbur got the day off behind the plate and was the designated hitter. Enter Lucas Shaw, who went 4 for 6, hit two home runs and drove in six runs.
“Guys are buying into it,” Hanks said. “They’ve accepted it. It’s not necessarily how I had planned, but it’s what’s developed. It’s what’s working and probably what has to work. (I told them) ‘We’re just trying to win games, guys, that’s all we’re trying to do.’ ”