Mavs in the outfield: Vallie, Romero doing well after position switch
An extra day off Tuesday was more productive for the Mesa State softball team than practice.
After all, it’s not like the Mavericks don’t know anything about their first-round opponent in this week’s Central Region tournament in Colorado Springs.
The Mavericks (23-20) play Metro State (46-4) at noon Friday, the eighth meeting of the teams this season, the fourth time in the past week.
“Playing Metro one more time, here we go,” left fielder Dani Vallie said Tuesday after checking in at Bergman Field before heading home to study for more final exams. “When Sara’s (Jordan) fresh, we can play at the top of our game and we’re going to be really ready for them this week.”
Vallie, the Mavericks’ starting second baseman last season, moved to the outfield this spring, with fellow infielder-turned-outfielder Lita Romero. The two speedy sophomores flank Gabi Parra, allowing the Mavericks to cut down balls in the gap.
“It’s all about communication out there and we communicate pretty well with each other,” Vallie said.
With a surplus of middle infielders, Mort looked at her options this season and proposed the move.
“It’s taken them some balls that were, oh, that was definitely an infielder playing the outfield, but those two kids would run through a brick wall and eat the bricks for lunch if I told them to do it,” Mort said.
“They’re both great kids and would do anything I asked. Their speed coupled with Gabi’s experience and reads and range, I felt, would create a good combination out there.”
Vallie had played some outfield but was used to center, not left.
“It’s not really that hard,” she said. “Left field, on right-handed batters reading the ball is a little different than center field.”
They’ve learned when to dive or make sliding catches, and they’ve gotten to know the fences in foul territory up close and personal.
“It took Dani a little time to settle in to left because the ball takes off on you,” Mort said. “It seems like it should be easier to play, but it’s harder because the ball gets up in the jet stream and spins and tails on you. It’s deceiving. You can run in on a ball and get burned on a line drive that takes off.”
The outfielders stay busy against a hard-hitting team like Metro State, which broke the single-season home run record last week, a record Mesa State set in 2002 and three other teams, including Metro, had tied. The Roadrunners have hit 101 home runs this season.
“It was a great run and hopefully one day I’ll have a team that can hit 120,” Mort said. “Obviously we want to continue to win but I don’t want our kids to lose sight of the fact that we had to get a lot better to get here.
“I don’t want them to get caught up so much in the ‘what do we have to win next?’ to not stop and appreciate what they have accomplished coming out of the cellar to the attic.”