Mesa State softball team uses patience to sweep N.M. Highlands

At nearly five strikeouts a game, it was clear the Mesa State College softball team was struggling at the plate.

The bottom part of the lineup was especially frustrated, with shortstop Katie Mitchell striking out 20 times and catcher Meagan Hennessy 22.

Coach Kris Mort went looking for answers.

She may have found them down the hall in baseball coach Chris Hanks’ office.

“I’ve gotta give credit to Coach Hanks,” Mort said. “He said, ‘Here’s some drills that have always worked for us whenever we’re not hitting or not hitting aggressively, going down looking. We talk to them about not being an easy out, be an impossible out.’ ’’

The Mavericks (15-15, 11-13 RMAC) seemed to take that advice to heart Friday in a 5-3, 9-1 sweep of New Mexico Highlands (8-35, 3-25), striking out only three times in the doubleheader.

“It was a total mentality change for all of us,” Mitchell said. “We had a big, relaxed week.

Coach’s mentality, too, was relax and hit. Hit a strike. All of us were too mental looking at pitches. If it’s close, swing, you might run into it.”

Mitchell ran into a couple of pitches, hitting an opposite-field home run and a line-drive single in the first game and reaching on a catcher’s interference call and a base hit in the second.

“That was definitely a weight off my shoulders, hitting an outside pitch over the right-center field fence,” Mitchell said.

“Meagan and I have played together forever and we have never been down here in the lineup.

But we’ll sit down there with our hitters ahead of us and pick it up from down there.”

Hennessy also took an outside pitch the other way, lining a double down the right-field line to score Mitchell from first in the third inning of the first game.

The Mavs turned on inside pitches, drove outside pitches the other way and pounded balls up the middle against Highlands, latching on to the “be an impossible out” credo.

No one showed that more than Lauren Cross, who had a 19-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning of the first game.

She fouled off pitch after pitch, threatening to dent cars parked along Cannell Avenue behind Bergman Field and pinging a few off the backstop.

Cross caught a break when, on a 2-2 changeup, she got just enough of the ball to foul it back to catcher Heather Hamilton, who couldn’t hang on for the strikeout.

Cross got another ball, then fouled off a few more before Highlands pitcher Ashley Paiz missed low for a walk.

“She was getting frustrated but I told her, ‘No, you made her throw an inning’s worth of pitches to one hitter. Be impossible to get out. Don’t get frustrated, that’s what we’re talking about,’ ’’ Mort said.

Ashlee Duffy hit a two-run home run in opener for a 4-3 lead. Gabi Parra hit a pair of home runs in the second game and Kristin Silva, the Mavs’ No. 9 hitter, also homered.

The teams play a doubleheader beginning at 11 this morning. It’s the Mavericks’ Swing for Life game, with pink jerseys and several other items up for auction. Proceeds benefit breast cancer research.

“Today, we were better, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Mort said. “Keep getting better and don’t give up.”


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