Timely hitting, solid pitching lift Mavs into regional final
DENVER — Mesa State College was one of the last teams selected for the NCAA Division II regional softball tournament.
The Mavericks apparently want to be one of the last teams to leave.
Mesa State rolled into the Central sub-regional championship game Saturday afternoon with an 8-3 victory over Colorado State University-Pueblo. The Mavericks face the ThunderWolves again at noon today in the title game. CSU-Pueblo knocked off Colorado Mines 3-1 in an elimination game after the Orediggers sent top-seeded Metro State home with a 6-2 win to start the day.
The Mavericks (29-19) are undefeated in the double-elimination tournament and need one win to advance to the Super Regional. Winona State (Minn.) plays Wayne State today for the title in the other Central bracket.
“It’s kind of weird, there’s an overwhelming feel of calmness on this team right now,” center fielder Gabi Parra said. “Compared to the way things were at the beginning of the year … it’s a great time to peak. We just keep getting better every game.”
Senior pitcher Jessica Rayman (11-6) threw four strong innings against Pueblo, allowing three runs on six hits. Sara Jordan allowed one infield hit in three shutout innings of relief to pick up her fourth save.
The defense played flawlessly and Parra and Ashlee Duffy came through with some clutch hitting. Parra went 3 for 3 and drove in three runs and Duffy ripped a three-run home run in the fourth inning, her ninth of the season, to erase a 3-1 deficit.
“I put the ball in play (Friday) but hit it right at someone or I wasn’t making good contact,” Duffy said. “Oh, that felt good.”
Parra tripled home a run in the first inning, singled and scored in the fourth, had an RBI single and scored in the fifth and lifted a sacrifice fly to center for another run in the seventh.
“Finally,” Parra said. “I’ve been in a little bit of a slump, balls aren’t falling, but this game I was determined. That was a good day’s work.”
That the Mavericks are one win away from being one of the final 16 teams in the nation is a surprise when you think about where they were at the end of April, 13-15 and going nowhere.
The Mavs went 10-2 to play their way into the RMAC tournament and finished second there, which got them into the sub-regional.
Being in familiar surroundings at Regis University against other RMAC teams has made it feel like just another weekend at the ballpark.
“It was kind of a bummer that it was like another RMAC tournament kind of thing, but I think because there aren’t other teams and other officials, it’s kind of alleviated the pressure of it feeling like the NCAAs,” Mort said. “It’s another weekend, the umpires are familiar, the teams, the field. Hopefully we’ll get through this and get another weekend.”
Mort treated the Mavericks to a nice dinner and a Rockies game Friday night, staying with the “have fun, stay loose” philosophy that has served them well.
Did she have an encore for Saturday night?
“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe I’ll let them get dessert.”