Surface flirts with perfect game in Mavs' sweepNorthwestern to make initial NCAA appearance
Ben Garcia owned up to jinxing it. So did Sports Information Director Ian Marks.
Even McKenzie Surface let it creep into her head.
“I knew after the first batter and I thought it in my head,” Surface said a bit sheepishly, “and I shouldn’t have.”
The sophomore pitcher for Colorado Mesa was stellar Sunday in the first game of Colorado Mesa’s doubleheader sweep of New Mexico Highlands, throwing 4 1/3 perfect innings in the Mavericks’ 9-0 victory.
“I looked up there and said, ‘Is that right? Has she given up a hit?’ ‘’ said Garcia, CMU’s softball coach. “Coach (Erik) Kozel is like, ‘No! Don’t say anything!’ Sorry. I didn’t even know it was for a perfect game.”
That did it.
After getting Breanna Cabera to foul out to first baseman AnnMarie Torres to open the fifth inning, Surface left a pitch over the plate too much and Victoria Gonzales drove it toward left-center.
Center fielder Brooke Hodgson got a great jump and tried to make a diving catch, with left fielder Kellie Mrofcza also giving chase. The ball hit the warning track for a double, spoiling the perfect game.
Surface shook it off and struck out the next batter and got another foul pop-out to first to wrap up the one-hit shutout.
“It would have been a spectacular play. She was really close,” Surface said of Hodgson’s diving attempt. “It was a just a game of every pitch and that one pitch… I was just hoping to keep it in the park after that.”
After a slow start, the Mavericks (16-5, 9-2 RMAC) took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth and blew it open by scoring eight runs.
They scored five in the bottom of the fifth in the second game for a 10-2 victory.
All four games were shortened by the run-rule, the seventh time that’s happened in the past eight games. Sunday’s first game was only 57 minutes long, with Surface throwing 51 pitches, 37 for strikes.
“I think today we came out with a little bit of lethargic attitude, if you will,” Garcia said. “Sometimes you think things are going to happen without you individually putting in that effort, I’ll let someone else do it. If we don’t get that mindset straight, that can come back and really bite you in the rear.”
Surface (9-3) struck out the side in the first inning, moving her pitches up and down and corner to corner. Three fly balls took care of Highlands (6-19, 3-9) in the second, and Surface, after striking out the first batter, took care of a pop-up in the third before a routine fly ball to Hodgson in center made it 9 up, 9 down.
Mrofcza recorded all three outs in the fourth, making a spectacular diving catch in foul territory for the first out, caught another foul ball for the second out and then settling under a sky-high fly ball, keeping Surface’s perfect day intact.
In the bottom of the fourth, CMU’s bats finally caught fire. Three straight singles were highlighted by Hailey Hinson’s 10-pitch at-bat, which resulted in a two-run single.
Alex Dufour came through with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to right, and Torres drove in two more runs with a hard single to left. Torres drove in 10 runs in the series.
Hodgson and Kaila Jacobi put the game out of reach with back-to-back home runs, Hodgson’s a three-run shot, her seventh of the season, and Jacobi’s a no-doubter to left-center, her fourth.
“Our hitters did a good job taking their time and slowing it down,” Surface said. “We finally got some people on and started hitting the ball.”
The offense got going quicker in the second game, with the Mavericks scoring three runs in the second without benefit of a hit. Highlands committed three errors to jump-start CMU, which added a pair of runs in the third and five more in the fifth.
Zoe Pakes hit her third home run of the season, a line shot over left, and Sarah Phillis came inches from following that, banging a double high off the wall in center. Bailey Kleepsies’ base hit up the middle scored Phillis, Jacobi beat out a bunt and Jessica Boruff lined a two-run single to left.
Despite the lopsided weekend — Mesa outscored Highlands 41-3 — Garcia wants to see better focus every inning as the Mavericks come up on the heart of the conference season.
“You get spoiled in those situations and you want it all the time,” Garcia said. “I know you can’t turn it on and off and that’s what I want them to understand, the intensity has to be there all the time.
“Don’t feel sorry for anybody; they’re a college team. I get spoiled. It’s not that I want to end it in five innings, I just want to hit the ball as hard as possible and make them make the plays.”