Mesa State loses 7th straight in softball

The Mesa State College softball team probably feels a long way away from last year’s NCAA Super Regional appearance.

Saturday at Bergman Field, the Mavericks (3-7, 1-7 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) dropped both games of a doubleheader to the University of Nebraska-Kearney (5-5, 4-2), losing 13-4 in the first game, then falling 6-5.

The losses pushed the Mavericks’ losing streak to seven games.

“I think right now we are trying to decide what is our identity, and who are the players that are going to create that identity?” Mesa State coach Kris Mort said. “We are better than how we are performing.”

In the first game, Nebraska-Kearney jumped to a 9-0 lead in the first two innings before cruising to the double-digit win in five innings. Mesa State’s Sara Jordan got the start in the second game, and kept the Lopers quiet for the first two innings.

In the bottom of the second, Mesa State appeared as if it would take an early lead when Katie Mitchell hit a line drive with one out to give the Mavs’ JJ Johnson an opportunity to score from first base. Johnson was held up at third base, despite Lopers shortstop Kelsey Smith being unable to cleanly field the cut-off throw.

Mort took the blame for not getting the Mavericks the early run.

“I made a mistake by not scoring JJ. She hadn’t got to the corner yet and the shortstop was getting ready to receive it,” Mort said. “If she gets it clean, she would have gotten JJ by a couple steps, and I didn’t think it was appropriate to get that type of out in the second inning.”

Kearney took advantage of Mesa’s missed opportunity by scoring four runs in the third inning, propelled by Taylor Fernau’s two-run double to take a 4-0 lead.

Mesa responded in the fourth inning by making the most of the Lopers’ errors. Nebraska-Kearney committed two errors in the inning, including a throwing error by third baseman Cassie Keck on a slow ground ball hit by Lisa Pille. Keck’s errant throw to first base allowed Johnson, Mitchell, and Pille to score. When the dust settled, Mesa tied the game 4-4.

It didn’t last long as the Lopers got a two-run home run from Jessie Thomas in the top of the fifth inning to increase their lead to 6-4.

Mort said the Mavericks’ pitching performances haven’t been enough to keep them in games.

“Our pitching staff has to put us in a position where we can go out and hit, and not feel like we have to climb a mountain,” Mort said. “We need good, solid performances from our pitchers that will keep us in games.”

In the doubleheader, the Mavericks allowed 22 hits and 19 runs. Mesa State also walked five and hit four Nebraska-Kearney batters in the two games.

“The pitching has to get better,” Mort said. “But we are also failing to get that clutch hit.”

Offensively, one bright spot from Saturday was Mitchell, who led the team in the second game, going 3 for 3. Mitchell is one of two seniors on the team, and said it’s important to get a win today against the Lopers.

“We want to break this losing streak and move on,” Mitchell said. “We came back with some fight in the second one, and I think that was good for our morale.”

Mesa will be without starting third baseman Lauren Cross, who injured her ankle in the first game. Mort said there isn’t a timetable for Cross’ return.

Today’s doubleheader with Nebraska-Kearney starts at 11 a.m.


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