Mavs need to win RMAC tournament to make regionals
A bumpy end to the regular season for Colorado Mesa University’s softball team can turn just as quickly as the Mavs fell from title contention to the final seed of the RMAC tournament.
The Mavericks play top-seeded Colorado School of Mines for the fifth time in less than a week when the tournament begins Thursday in Golden.
After dropping three of four to the Orediggers last weekend, the Mavericks put themselves in a position of likely needing to win the conference tournament to advance to the NCAA Division II regional playoffs in coach Kris Mort’s final season.
Mesa (24-10) plays Mines (29-22) at 1 p.m. Thursday in the opening round of the eight-team, double-elimination tournament.
The regular-season conference race was close the entire spring, with only four games and 100 percentage points separating Mines and Mesa.
The Mavericks fell into a split-the-weekend habit for several weeks, and dropped eight games to teams that did not reach the RMAC tournament.
After sweeping second-seeded CSU-Pueblo to open the conference schedule, Mesa split with New Mexico Highlands, dropped a home doubleheader to No. 3 seed Fort Lewis (and lost the season series 3-1), split with Black Hills State, which won only six conference games in its first year in the RMAC, and then got on a bit of a roll.
They won the series against CU-Colorado Springs and Colorado Christian, which at the time was leading the conference standings. However, the trip to Chadron, Neb., resulted in another split, and Mesa lost six of its final eight games of the regular season.
The Mavs’ .347 batting average is the second-highest in the conference and leads the eight teams in the tournament, so when they’re hitting, they can put up runs in a hurry.
Mesa’s hottest hitter right now is junior catcher Megan Smith, who is hitting .387 with seven home runs, has hit .667 in the past two weekends with three home runs and eight RBI.
However, the Mavericks have struggled to get the pitching, defense and hitting all contributing at the same time.
Junior pitcher Courtney Maihi, who on Tuesday was selected first-team All-RMAC as a designated player, is 13-10 with a 4.67 ERA; sophomore Ashley Pulido is 8-9 with a 4.72 ERA.
Maihi, who is hitting .444 with 12 home runs, was the only CMU player to make the first team.
Senior first baseman Shannon McClenahan, who hit .368 and made only five errors all season, made the second team along with left fielder Jessica Albertson, a junior transfer from the College of Southern Idaho. Albertson is hitting .401 and has played flawlessly in the outfield.
Danni Vallie, the Mavs’ senior center fielder, who is hitting .333 with a .925 fielding percentage, made the third team.
Central High School graduate Ashley Goletz, a junior pitcher at Colorado Mines, made the third team.
Daven Bond, a former basketball and baseball standout at Mesa, was selected the RMAC co-coach of the year along with CSU-Pueblo’s Shane Showalter. Bond led Colorado Christian, a first-year program, into the conference tournament as the No. 4 seed.
Hannah Rapoport of Colorado Christian is the player of the year, Mines’ Kelly Unkrich, who the Mavs will likely face Thursday, is the pitcher of the year, and Regis shortstop Rachel Illias and CSU-Pueblo third baseman Ariel Lopez are the co-freshmen of the year.
Colorado Mesa University’s women’s tennis team was one of three RMAC squads to receive a bid to the NCAA Division II Central Region playoffs.
The Mavs (18-8), who placed third in last week’s RMAC tourney, are seeded fourth and play at Augustana, S.D., (18-3) in a preliminary-round match. Dates and times of have not been determined.
This is the fourth straight regional bid for the Mavs and fifth in the past six seasons.
In the other preliminary-round match, Western New Mexico (10-12) is seeded third and plays at No. 2 Nebraska-Kearney (17-7).