Rayman stymies Metro to lead Mavs to win at softball sub-regional
DENVER — Jessica Rayman had that look in her eyes, the look every coach wants to see from a senior pitcher.
“She was the ticket,” Mesa State softball coach Kris Mort said Friday after Rayman threw a nine-inning five-hitter against No. 10 Metro State for a 3-1 victory in the opening game of the NCAA Division II Central sub-regional at Regis University. “She was phenomenal today.”
Mort handed the ball to Rayman, an off-speed pitcher, who baffled the nation’s best power-hitting team. Metro has hit 98 home runs this season, tying Mesa State’s national record.
“Coach mentioned to us last week that they tied us for the home run record and I don’t want to be the one to give it up,” Rayman said. “That was the only thing on my mind. Keep my ball down, they’re not gonna hit it over.”
Rayman’s pitching, stellar middle infield defense and three consecutive doubles in the ninth inning led the Mavericks (28-19) into the winners’ bracket final at noon today against CSU-Pueblo.
Kris Silva drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning after Katie Mitchell doubled to lead off the inning.
Rayman recorded a key strikeout in each of the final five innings to preserve a 1-1 tie or protect her late two-run lead.
Mitchell, with eight assists and one putout, put on a clinic at shortstop. She started an inning-ending double play in the fourth and made a slick back-handed pickup in the hole with a runner on first and two out in the bottom of the seventh.
“When Ray’s dealing like that, if she’s gonna throw me ground balls, that’s my job,” Mitchell said. “She threw a helluva game. In a year when I’m not hitting as well as I want to be, I have to go play defense.”
With two out in the eighth, Mitchell sprinted behind second base to glove Tara Mickelson’s bid for a base hit up the middle.
Mitchell led off the top of the ninth with a line drive to center that touched down just in front of a diving Kellie Nishikida for a double. She scored on Silva’s double to left and Dani Vallie doubled into the left-field corner to drive home the insurance run.
“That was a good college softball game and that’s all I ask,” Mort said of ending an 0-for-5 skid against the Roadrunners this season. “I want to go nose-to-nose with them and fight, not get knocked out on a Sunday punch.”