What a hit: Mitchell’s grand slam helps Mesa garner split with CSU-Pueblo
Katie Mitchell probably shouldn’t have still been in the game Saturday in the bottom of the fifth inning at Bergman Field.
Her Mesa State College softball teammates were glad she was, though, after she hit a grand slam to tie the first game and propel the Mavericks (10-12, 8-12 RMAC) to a 10-7 victory over CSU-Pueblo.
The ThunderWolves (16-10, 12-8 RMAC) came back to earn the series split with a 5-1 win in the final game.
In the fourth inning, Mitchell bowled over catcher Bo Nuanez trying to score from third on a ground ball to short. NCAA rules state players must slide when there’s a play at the plate and can be ejected if they don’t.
“It wasn’t anything intentional,” Mitchell said. “I was just going hard. It’s kind of an instinct thing.”
Mitchell wasn’t ejected, and when she came up the next inning, coach Kris Mort told her to expect to get plunked.
Instead, Justine Bosio elected to pitch to Mitchell, who took a pitch deep to left-center to tie the game at 6-6. Mitchell went 3 for 5 and drove in five of Mesa State’s 10 runs.
“I just got a pitch I could hit,” Mitchell said. “My mind-set right there is score a couple, not go tie the ballgame with one swing, but sometimes you put a good enough swing on it to hit it out of the park.”
It was the fourth of five straight hits in the inning — Ashlee Duffy, Megan Smith and Whitney Bailey all singled ahead of Mitchell with two outs, and Lita Romero doubled after the home run, but was caught stealing third.
The Mavericks raised $2,390 in their annual Swing for Life game. Before the game, Swing for Life founder Kathy Howa announced Mesa State was awarded the 2009-2010 Community Service Award for its contributions.
In the three years Mesa State’s women’s athletic programs have been involved with Swing for Life, teams have raised $13,690.
Dani Vallie led off the sixth with a base hit that she stretched into a double, moved to third on a bunt by Lisa Pille and came home on a home run to left by Gabi Parra.
That was it for Bosio, and Sara Jordan doubled off the top of the fence against reliever Caitlyn Wambeke. She scored on a base hit by Bailey, who had an outstanding weekend at the plate and in the field.
The freshman third baseman went 4 for 7 with three RBI on Saturday and made plenty of plays in the corner, snaring line drives and making quick pickups on short-hops to third.
“She’s getting it,” Mort said. “I think we need to pick our nine, live and die with nine instead of keeping everybody bouncing around.”
In the final game, just after CSU-Pueblo had taken a 2-1 lead in the seventh, Nuanez hit a one-out liner to Bailey at third, who lunged to tag Kelly Purcell, who was diving back to the bag.
Bailey appeared to tag Purcell on the foot a split second before her hand reached the bag, but Purcell was called safe.
Instead of a double play to get the Mavs out of the inning one run down, Bosio hit a three-run home run off Wailana Borrero for a 5-1 lead.
“Wailana threw a good game,” Mort said. “She kept it off-speed, she got herself some good outs.
“We were in the same place last season. It doesn’t mean you have to have a repeat performance, it’s not time to peak. It’s time to climb, climb one step at a time.”
Despite the split, the Mavericks got better in the series and showed signs of getting back into the RMAC picture.
A year ago at this time, the Mavericks adopted a “Play to May” motto, lost in the title game of the RMAC tournament, received a bid to the regional and won that, reaching the Super Regional.
“Pueblo is where we turned the corner last year, so maybe we can use them as second base and turn and go,” Mitchell said.