Mort, Mavericks thrilled to make softball regional
Kris Mort had an idea the Colorado Mesa University softball team would have something to celebrate Monday morning, but didn’t tip her hand.
The CMU coach is on the Central Region ranking committee, and when she hung up from the conference call Sunday evening, the Mavericks were seventh — eight teams receive bids to the NCAA Division II playoffs in each region.
“But you never know what can happen (once it reaches the national softball committee),” said Mort, who will be making her eighth and final trip to a regional this weekend.
“We were seventh, but I wasn’t real confident of that. Last week everybody on the committee said we would be 10th and when the rankings came out we weren’t 10th. I didn’t know what to make of that.”
And when the NCAA website, which streams the bracket announcement live, had technical difficulties Monday morning and was nearly an hour late, she still didn’t say a word.
“I got it in an email about 8:30,” she said. “(The players) were having donuts and juice and waited.
“We started getting talked about at the five-spot, and with the parity in the RMAC, we were comparing everybody. It came down to fine-tuning and going through everything with a fine-tooth comb and ultimately we fell to six.
“Then we compared CMU to Christian. I said, ‘In fairness, Christian beat us 6-1 and pushed an ‘if’ game in the tournament.’ Then it was us and CCU in the six-seven spots.
“We went down to seven and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this too many more times the way it’s shaking out.’ “
The regional committee settled on Mesa at No. 7 and it held up at the national level.
The Mavericks (26-22), play in the Central 2 Region starting Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D., facing second-seeded Augustana (S.D.) University at 12:30 p.m. (MDT) in the four-team, double-elimination bracket.
The NCAA split each region into two four-team brackets a few years ago, with the bracket winners meeting in a best-of-three series the following weekend for the right to advance to the NCAA Division II Softball World Series.
“I think it gives you more time to rest in between games,” Mort said of the three-day sub-regional format. “In an eight-team tournament, you could play three games in one day, and that couldn’t happen here. I think (Colorado) Christian played seven games last weekend.”
Christian, a first-year program that reached the RMAC tournament title game before falling to Fort Lewis, is in Mesa’s sub-regional as the No. 6 overall seed and faces Winona (Minn.) State at 10 a.m. Friday.
In the Central 1 bracket, Minnesota State-Mankato is the top overall seed and host, facing Fort Lewis, with Minnesota Duluth playing Concordia-St. Paul.
Mort, who is retiring after this season, her 19th as head coach, said the RMAC tournament was one of those weekends when everything came together.
“Last weekend they had a whole different level of enthusiasm and fire from the dugout and on the field. It was just a different team. They came together and turned themselves into what all year I’ve been driving them to be,” Mort said.
“It was fun; fun for them to play and fun to be out there with them. It was the most enjoyable weekend of the year so far.”
Colorado Mesa, ranked third in the Central Region, was one of nine teams selected for the NCAA Division II regionals May 6-8 at Sierra Del Rio Golf Course in Elephant Butte, N.M.
Four RMAC schools and three individual players qualified for the tournament — Colorado Mesa, CSU-Pueblo, Western New Mexico and Adams State. Maria Manrique of Colorado Christian and Nicole Hulbert and Lara Pocs of Regis made the field as individuals.
Jessica Berve and Jennifer Hilts, both seniors, have led the Mavericks all season, with senior Afton Balling, junior Michelle Stripp and freshman Alisa Lindsay all finishing in the top 20 at the RMAC championships. Berve placed third, Stripp eighth and Hilts 10th in the conference tournament two weeks ago.
The top three teams and three individuals not on advancing teams from the 54-hole regional qualify for the national championships May 16-19 at Persimmon Ridge Golf Course in Louisville, Ky.
Mesa’s men’s golf team plays in the super regional May 7-9 at Wigwam Golf Course in Litchfield Park, Ariz. The super regional pairs the Central and West regions, with six RMAC teams making the field.