Mesa’s Maihi making big impact in softball
Sometimes, teams and individual players need to be challenged.
That happened Saturday evening after the Colorado Mesa University softball team split a doubleheader with Black Hills State at Bergman Field.
Sunday, the Mavericks — and pitcher Courtney Maihi — responded.
“I think we had to make a decision,” Maihi said. “At the end of the day, we only have each game.”
The junior pitcher from Hamilton, New Zealand threw a one-hit shutout and went 2 for 3 with a two-run home run in an 8-0, five-inning game in the opener, then came back to throw the final game of the series. The Mavericks (10-8, 8-6 RMAC) lost the second game 2-0, victims of hitting line drives right at the defense.
“We did play better. I told them, we put the ball in play, we just couldn’t get that run across,” CMU coach Kris Mort said. “I never would have expected this team to get shut out.”
Maihi is animated on the field, talking to herself, correcting her delivery when she misses a pitch, or scolds herself when she pops out, pantomiming what her swing should have looked like.
“It’s all about adjustments in this game, so if you leave a ball high, you have to make an adjustment the next time,” Maihi said. “Even if it’s just talking to myself and letting the whole world see it, that’s fine, I’ll do that.”
And all the while, her facial expression switches from deadpan serious to a happy-go-lucky grin.
“I always got told I should never smile on the mound, but I can’t do it,” she said, breaking into that smile again. “I can’t not smile on the mound; I’m having too much fun.”
She struck out four and walked three in the first game, and had a no-hitter through four innings. Katie Wagner broke it up with a double down the left-field line leading off the fifth, and Maihi walked Rebecca Huley.
A sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position, but Maihi recorded her fourth strikeout and got Kyley Barela to fly out to right to preserve the shutout.
CMU left fielder Jessica Albertson hit a one-out home run in the first and the Mavs put up six runs in the second, with Lisa Pille leading off with a double and Rachel Boothe walking. Tawnie Woosley doubled to left-center and Lita Romero beat out a bunt, scoring Boothe.
Romero stole second and Taylor Gross bunted, scoring Woosley. Albertson walked, and she and Romero pulled off a double steal for a 5-0 lead.
With two out, Maihi drove the ball over the wall in left-center for her seventh home run of the season, and the Mavs tacked on an insurance run in the fourth.
Black Hills scored a pair of runs in the first inning of the second game, and Wagner scattered four hits for a rare shutout of the free-swinging Mavericks.
Maihi threw a complete game in the second game, walking three and striking out five, allowing only four hits.
The Mavericks couldn’t get a hit when they had chances to break the game open.
With two out and the bases loaded in the first, Pille popped out. Gross hit a gapper to lead off the third but was thrown out from right-center trying to stretch the double into a triple. Albertson singled right after that, and Maihi’s bid for another home run was tracked down at the wall in left.
Gross doubled with one out in the fifth, and with one out and two on, Danni Vallie hit a line shot, right to the shortstop, doubling Gross off second.
“I think if Danni’s hit goes through, it scores both of those runners probably, with Danni on three,” Mort said. “Taylor got us a big hit early on, we just couldn’t get a break. It was always right at somebody.”
Despite the split, Mort liked how the Mavericks played.
“We got better, we cleaned it up defensively,” she said. “I got one pitcher to get better this weekend. We’ve got to start with one pitcher at a time, getting from them what we need from them.
“I think I got their attention by making some lineup changes. I think they’re a little bit more locked in to taking somebody’s job, doing a job better than somebody if necessary.”