Mesa State softball team falls short in extra-inning title game
One month ago, not many would have given the Mesa State College softball team a chance to be a factor in the RMAC tournament.
Not only were the Mavericks a factor, they were one play away from winning the title.
The Mavericks lost 11-9 in 10 innings Saturday to Metro State in the championship game in Denver after dropping a 19-6 decision to the Roadrunners, forcing the “if” game.
“The comeback we made in that last game, had we not been in the situation to play the ‘if’ game, my kids would have walked away thinking it was a fluke (beating Metro State 5-1 early in the tournament), that they handed one to us,” Mesa State coach Kris Mort said. “We fought back and had a chance to redeem ourselves a little bit. Now they know we are as good as them and we can fight them toe-to-toe.
“I’m proud of where they’ve come from in March.”
In March, the Mavericks were far, far down in the conference standings.
“We were standing at home plate at Regis in March saying to the umpire, ‘We’re going to be lucky to get into the conference tournament. You’ve got the bottom of the barrel.’
“Now we’re back at the top again. I really feel like my kids have achieved a whole lot more than anybody else’s.”
The Mavericks had chances in the final game and nearly won it in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the seventh.
Down 9-5, Mesa State scored four runs to tie the game — all with two out.
After Megan Smith forced Gabi Parra at second, Whitney Bailey singled up the middle. Ashlee Duffy reached on an error to load the bases and Lise Pille singled home two runs.
Lita Romero reached on another error to load the bases again, and after a pitching change, Dani Vallie doubled to the gap in right-center, scoring two runs and sending Romero to third.
“They threw it in and I held (Romero) at third and the throw hit Dani in the foot as she was running to second,” Mort said. “She probably could have scored but I had held her up and she was going back to the bag and we didn’t score her.”
Metro, which broke a four-team tie for the national single-season home run record in the game, hit back-to-back home runs in the 10th and shut down the Mavs in the bottom of the inning to win it.
Mesa State hit 98 home runs in 2001 to break the record, which had been tied by three teams, including Metro State last season.
The Roadrunners now have 101 home runs.
The seventh wasn’t the only time the Mavs rallied.
In the fifth, down 9-3, Sara Jordan hit a two-run home run and Mesa had two runners on for Duffy, who lined a shot to center.
“Molly Clark made a diving catch over the fence and brought it in. That would have been a three-run home run,” Mort said.
“We had our chances. They are very, very disciplined hitters. Sara would throw a pitch two inches out of the strike zone and they wouldn’t swing and they didn’t call it, so she’d bring it back in two inches and they’d hit it out of the park.”
Jordan was again the workhorse in the pitching circle, throwing 346 pitches Saturday. She threw all but 11⁄3 innings in the Mavs’ five tournament games.
“That’s about 150 more than she should have thrown,” Mort said. “She would come into the dugout in tears, just exhausted.”
Jordan made the all-tournament team as did Vallie and Smith.
Regional pairings will be announced at 8 a.m. (MDT) on Monday during an online selection show at NCAA.com. Mort is on the Central Region ranking committee, which will make its recommendations today after a conference call.
“I think we’ll be in,” she said. “To finish in the top (two) in the conference this season, it’s easy to coach with great talent.
“I’m proud of what they’ve made of themselves. It (stinks) to lose, but what makes it better is that they’ve learned a lot about themselves.”