Mavs coming together: Softball team hopes to duplicate last year’s success
This season has been eerily similar to last spring for the Mesa State College softball team. The upperclassmen are fine with that scenario, especially if things turn out like they did last May.
“We’re getting back to that ‘So what? Win’ (mentality) where we were last year,” senior first baseman Ashlee Duffy said. “We’re a young team but we are every bit as talented as last year. We just have to put all the aspects of the game into one game.”
Duffy and shortstop Katie Mitchell are the only seniors who will play their final home games this weekend at Bergman Field against Western New Mexico. The Mavs will also honor junior center fielder Gabi Parra, who will end her career this season.
“I’ve enjoyed it. I feel like I played four years,” Parra said. “I played all fall my freshman year and then ended up getting hurt in the spring so I feel it’s the end, not so much that I’m backing out early.”
Parra made an immediate impact in the outfield and at the plate after transferring from the University of New Mexico.
“I loved it,” she said. “Coming from a program that I wasn’t entirely happy with and coming here, I’ve made stronger friendships and connections here than I did at New Mexico.”
Winning the regional title and reaching the Division II sub-regional is tops on all of the Mavs’ list of memories.
“What we did last year was huge,” Parra said. “Beating everyone in the conference and kicking butt in regionals and being able to go to super-regionals ... The whole experience, being one of the 16 teams left in the nation, was amazing. The whole experience was amazing, like a Cinderella finish.”
Duffy, a Central High School graduate who spent two years at Lamar Community College, still smiles when she talks about the regional tournament.
All she did was hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the seventh against CSU-Pueblo, then record the final out at first in the bottom of the inning to send the Mavericks to the super-regional.
“It’s definitely my highlight at Mesa, or playing softball ever,” she said. “Coming back in that seventh inning, hitting a home run, I still can’t believe it. I’m still in shock over that, and then making the last out. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
She’d like another chance to top that memory and to help the young players get a taste of building on that tradition.
“I hope we as a team can get that experience this year,” Duffy said.
“I think it’s a way we can build on this program, when you get to that level, you carry it out. I hope it carries on that tradition. It’s a goal, but it’s not ‘Maybe we’ll get there,’ it’s a ‘We’ll get there.’ ‘’
Entering today’s doubleheader, Mitchell has been a part of 98 wins at Mesa State.
Known for her defense, Mitchell’s favorite memory isn’t throwing out a speedy runner — it’s a hit.
“The regional is definitely up there, but for me, the grand slam a couple of weeks ago,” she said of her shot in the bottom of the sixth inning April 3 against CSU-Pueblo to lead Mesa to a 10-7 victory.
“Offensively, it hasn’t been an ideal career for me, when you’re a career .230 hitter. I worked hard enough this year to say, ‘I’m a senior, I’m going to be as clutch as I can.’ For me to step up with two out and be able to hit a game-tying grand slam… After never hitting one in your life to having two in your senior year?”
She’s watched the young players grow into their roles this season.
“I think they got to the point where they said, ‘OK, we’re done with the ‘we’re young’ excuse,’ ‘’ Mitchell said. “We just have to be a team. Nobody has a class anymore. No freshmen, juniors, seniors. We just are a team.”