Mort determined to get Mesa softball team some playing time
Inventing ways to keep the Mesa State College softball team interested in practice is getting old.
Then again, there could be more snow to clear off Bergman Field before the Mavericks take the field this morning in the first of four exhibition games against Colorado Northwestern Community College.
The Mavericks play CNCC at noon today and 11 a.m. on Sunday in tuneup games before their first true test of the season — and what a test it will be — next weekend in a regional crossover tournament at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
“Next week, right out of the chute, we’ve got some pretty good programs, and we have no idea what we’re going to see or what to expect,” Mesa State coach Kris Mort said. A meticulous game-planner, Mort has several notebooks filled with hitting charts on teams from the South Central Region. The only problem is, the NCAA reassigned regions this season and the RMAC is now in the North Central Region.
The Mavericks play six games in three days in Colorado Springs, then roll right into RMAC play the next week against Metro State, so when the Grand Valley woke up to a blanket of snow Friday morning, Mort was determined to play this weekend anyway.
“We’ve got to play,” she said. “You know me, if we can play, we will.”
The biggest thing Mort hopes to get out of this weekend is playing time for a lot of players, work against live hitting and pitching and the chance to work on some situations at game speed.
“It gives us an opportunity to play a real center fielder instead of putting our catcher in center field, who’s never going to play there,” she said of practice scrimmages.
“We’ll have some umpires, we’ll see somebody else’s pitchers. It’s tough to face your own pitchers. You want your hitters to do well so they’re not frustrated at the plate, yet you want your pitchers to flourish so they’re not mental and can’t throw strikes all year long. You hope they can go head-to-head and both come out confident.”
Sara Jordan, a sophomore transfer from Navarro (Texas) Junior College, will get the ball in the first game today, and Mort hopes the weather warms up in a hurry for the Texan.
“It’s tough for her to get warm,” Mort said. “It’s cold for her here. I keep wondering, ‘why aren’t you just on all the time?’ She’s on when it’s a lot warmer.”
One thing’s for sure: the Mavs have plenty of arms.
“Gabi Parra can definitely pitch here and we’ve got (Jessica) Rayman,” Mort said. “ Those are probably our three go-tos, and we’ve also got Kelsey (McCoy) and (Alicia Neuschwanger) and Cierra Lard.”
Parra, a transfer from the University of New Mexico, will start in right field when she’s not pitching. Until freshman Alaina Brennan is done with basketball and has enough practice time in to adjust to softball, Mort will tinker with who will play right when Parra is pitching.
“I think when Alaina gets to softball consistently, she’ll take the leaps and bounds she has the potential to take,” Mort said. “She hasn’t logged the hours.”
Meagan Hennessy returns as the Mavs’ starting catcher, with Ashlee Duffy penciled in to start at first base. Danielle Vallie will start at second, Katie Mitchell at shortstop and freshman Lita Romero at third. Kristen Silva will play left field, Jamie Prather center and Parra right.
“They’re ready to do something besides practice,” Mort said of the Mavs, who are picked to win the RMAC West Division and finish third overall. “We can get a little feedback; this week we need to work on this and this and this to get ready for next week.”