Consistency has helped Mavs avoid late-season scramble
A couple of years ago, the mantra became “Play to May.”
This season, though, the Colorado Mesa University softball team hasn’t had to scramble like mad all through April to get into position for a spot in the RMAC tournament the first weekend of May.
The Mavericks (22-14, 20-12 RMAC) have steadily moved up the conference standings and are tied for second place, two games behind CSU-Pueblo(20-10) in the loss column.
Colorado Mesa has lost only one season series, to Fort Lewis, which is tied with Mesa for the No. 2 spot.
The Mavericks split three of eight RMAC series and won four more, including a 4-0 sweep of CSU-Pueblo.
“It just kind of clicked,” senior right fielder Lita Romero said. “I think you perform the best when you don’t try so hard. When you’re not trying to make things happen and trying to be this great team, it happens on its own.”
Romero, one of four seniors who will be honored Sunday, is happy this group has avoided the last-minute rush.
“I think realistically, of my four years here, this is the best we’ve played the entire season,” she said. “Usually the beginning of the season it’s rough and you’re lucky just to get a split sometimes. This year it’s been a little more consistent; not exactly where we want, but more consistent.”
Colorado Mesa plays Nebraska-Kearney (19-19, 16-12) in a noon doubleheader Saturday at Bergman Field, with the first game the annual Swing for Life benefit for breast cancer research.
The Mavs will wear pink jerseys, which will be sold in a silent auction, along with several other items. It’s also Alumni Weekend, with “the alumni sisterhood” playing their annual slowpitch game Saturday night. Sunday (11 a.m. first pitch) is for the seniors — Romero, Shannon McClenahan, Danni Vallie and Lauren Cross.
“It seems like I just got here,” said Romero.
McClenahan, who called Senior Weekend “surreal,” has been at Mesa only two years, but immediately moved into the lineup at first base and has become the steady bat at the bottom of the batting order this season, hitting an even .400.
“I don’t really see myself as a power hitter,” the senior from Langley, British Columbia, said. “I think when people see me come up they don’t expect much from me. I’m kind of the quiet type; that’s how I’ve always hit.
“I’m not the kind to drop bombs or hit triples, but I’m a consistent enough hitter that I get the job done at the bottom of the lineup.”
Vallie, the Mavs’ do-it-all center fielder, redshirted her first year at Mesa and has been in the lineup, either outfield or middle infield, ever since.
“She’s a gamer,” CMU coach Kris Mort said. “Danni’s always been a gamer, she puts the ball in play when we need her to put it in play, she goes hard on the bases and plays hard all the time. She’s a very smart player.”
Cross showed up on campus after a year at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and introduced herself to Mort.
Soon she was the corner of the defense at third base and has come back twice from injuries, a broken ankle early in 2010, and a dislocated knee earlier this season.
“Lauren’s career has gone a little slower, played out a little differently, because of the injuries and waiting for her to get healthy,” Mort said. “Losing her twice has been a heartbreaker both times, but she’s come back.”
Mort doesn’t want the Mavs to get caught up in all the festivities this weekend, but concentrate on playing the Lopers.
“Just try to stay relaxed and not get uptight that it’s Senior Weekend and all the parents are here and the alumni and the fundraising or the weather isn’t supposed to be good,” Mort said. “And well, this is it.”
Oh yeah, “it” — Mort’s final home series. She announced her retirement before her 19th season, and will become an associate athletic director at CMU.
“It’s hard to leave, but really, every group is hard to leave,” she said. “You talk about geez, when I retire, when would I go out? Oh, this group would be so hard to go out on, and then there’s this group. There’s a tough group of freshmen to leave on.
“We’ve got some pretty exciting freshmen coming in that we’ve signed and it was tough to call them, but on the other hand, I don’t feel like I could be going out on a better group of seniors.”