Mort’s coaching approach morphs Mavs into family

Sunglasses. Multi-colored, plastic-framed sunglasses.

If you’re going to play softball at Mesa State College, you must have a pair. Maybe two or three. It’s become the trademark for this fun-loving group of players.

Although the coaches are sticking to their preference of Oakleys, the Mavericks did succeed in getting them to wear aviators during a series at Western New Mexico earlier this season.

Other seasons, Kris Mort would have declined that request. This year, she’s got a photo of the coaches in their shades on her cell phone.

The Mavericks (30-19) have bought into the “So what? WIN” (What’s Important Now) philosophy, so she figures she can buy into their goofy shades.

“It’s so cool they’ve bought into that,” Mort said. “In 10 years, this is going to be bigger than the game. That’s what’s so cool. They bought into the things I’ve said, be impossible. Be an impossible out.

“That’s going to be bigger than life in 10 years. Today, it’s about the game.’’

Mort was an intense player when she caught for the Mavericks, and carried that into her coaching career. But when the Mavericks were sinking fast in March, she realized something had to change.

“This group just did not function well with that high intensity,” Mort said during the Mavs’ sub-regional championship run last weekend. “I had to change my intensity. I’m still business-like, but I’m not ‘Come on! Let’s go!’

“So what?”

During the sub-regional in Denver, Mort was laughing right along with the Mavs.

Sophomore designated hitter Sara Jordan was struggling at the plate early, and in the semifinal game against CSU-Pueblo, the ThunderWolves made a pitching change with Jordan coming to the plate.

Mort walked over and said something to Jordan, and they both started laughing.

“I told her she doesn’t throw any harder than I do, so just picture the curls and pretend it’s me throwing,” Mort said, laughing.

Jordan drove a single up the middle for her first hit of the weekend.

The change in their coach hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Mavericks.

“The biggest thing is the fact that Coach sits on the sidelines and says, ‘It doesn’t matter. Just win. What’s important?’ ’’ senior pitcher Jessica Rayman said. “This team’s just been different than past teams. She knows how to get things across. We’ve figured it out and this is the time to do it.”

The Mavericks need to win two of three games this weekend against sixth-ranked Winona State (47-11) in the Super Region 3 tournament to claim the second trip to the NCAA Division II World Series in school history.

Mort took the Mavs there in 2000, and would love to have a bookend regional championship trophy for the other side of the display case at Saunders Fieldhouse.

Winona defeated Mesa State 15-4 in the opening weekend of the season, roughing up Gabi Parra in her pitching debut. Since then, Parra has remained in the outfield as Jordan, Rayman and sophomore Cierra Lard have handled the pitching.

Mort believes the Mavs’ personalities and the fact that the players get along so well has been the key to the turnaround.

“There’s some characters in this group. They keep it light and fun,” she said, glancing at the team gathered outside the field at Regis University.

“Look at Lauren Cross out there singing ... she’s just a goofball. There’s a lot of goofballs on this team. They’re not ready to turn in the uniforms yet.”


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