Mesa State softball team experiments, keeps focus

Mesa State’s Ashlee Duffy gets a hit off of Colorado Northwestern Community College during Sunday afternoon’s exhibtion game. PHOTO BY DANIELLE STOMBERG—

When you score 69 runs and give up only two in a four-game series, it’s easy to lose focus.

That didn’t happen in the Mesa State College softball team’s exhibition series at Bergman Field over the weekend against Colorado Northwestern Community College.

Despite their clear advantage over the junior college, the Mavericks were all business on the field.

“I think it proves this season we have a great chance to be successful. It showed the way we hit the ball,” freshman third baseman Lita Romero said. “Yeah, the competition is going to be tougher, but at the same time, it takes discipline to keep scoring runs. You get bored and your defense gets sloppy, but we stayed focused and that says something about our team.”

Coach Kris Mort moved players around the field, experimented with the batting order from game to game and got as many pitchers as much work as she could, especially since none of the games went the full seven innings.

The Mavs won 17-0 and 27-1 on Saturday and followed that with 9-0 and 16-1 wins Sunday.

“Except for the pitchers, I put everybody into every game,” she said. “We got a lot of looks.

Our starters don’t need those kinds of repetitions and risk injury. They got their at-bats and their looks, and it was nice to get everybody in.”

She also got a look at her deep, talented pitching staff and figure out which pitcher likes to throw what pitch in certain situations.

“When I called time, I needed to get on the same page as them,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure them out. I went out to ask Cierra (Lard, who finished up the final game) what she likes to throw when she’s down in the count.”

The Mavericks know the competition they faced in the exhibition games isn’t close to what they’ll see when the season begins this weekend in Colorado Springs in a regional crossover tournament.

The tournament will pit teams from the RMAC against teams from the North Central Region. In past years, the RMAC was in the South Central Region, which featured teams from Texas.

The Mavericks play Minnesota Duluth, Winona (Minn.) State, the University of Mary (N.D.), Augustana (S.D.) College, Southwest Minnesota State and St. Cloud (Minn.) State this week.

Mort is taking to heart that the teams in Minnesota are still snowed in and the Mavericks have been outside every day.

Even though the Mavericks will face teams they know nothing about this weekend, they’re going in brimming with confidence.

“I’m expecting to go out and compete,” Romero said. “We’re going to face better competition and we’re definitely not going to win 27-1, but we’re still going to compete with the way we hit the ball. We have solid defense, we have a great pitching staff. We’re going to go out and compete.”

They have one other thing that Mort sees as a huge plus: chemistry.

“This group has a lot of chemistry,” she said. “They get along and they enjoy the time they spend together. We’re trying to expect a championship out of this group. We expect that mentality. This was Day 2 of a championship season, (Saturday) was Day 1. If you start believing it ... believe it, achieve it, but you have to believe it and start stressing that championship mentality.

“As a coach, I have to believe that they have the ability. I can’t come out here every year at this level with a convincing voice and say this is a championship team when I know these two hate each other and those two hate these two. There are years you talk about it but it’s not in my heart.

“This group has the desire to be here and to practice and get better. I genuinely believe they have that special lack-of-drama chemistry. I believe they have the ability to be a championship team.”


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