Woosley fills in nicely for Mavericks
Colorado Mesa softball coach Kris Mort didn’t envision playing Tawnee Woosley as much as she has this season.
“At the beginning of the year, if you asked me if Tawnee would play 30 games at third base, I probably wouldn’t written it up like that,” Mort said. “She’s done an outstanding job. I’ve grown in my confidence in her abilities. She doesn’t seem to get caught out of position. She’s a scrappy little gal. She’s going to get better and deserves that spot.”
The redshirt freshman from Aztec, N.M., started the first two games in left field, but moved to third base when senior Lauren Cross went down with a right knee injury in second game of a doubleheader against Fort Lewis. Woosley started there for several weeks until Cross returned in early April.
Mort dismissed Cross, who was hitting .416, from the team prior to the RMAC tournament last week, but Woosley was ready to step back in. She’ll start at third base Friday in the NCAA Central sub-regional. The Mavericks (26-22) are the No. 7 seed and play No. 2 seed and No. 16-ranked Augustana (45-9) at 12:30 p.m. in Sioux Falls, S.D.
No. 15 Winona State (Minn.) University (42-9) and Colorado Christian (31-25) are in the double-elimination sub-regional. The winner of the sub-regional will play the winner of the other Central sub-regional next weekend at the higher seed.
“We’re excited to play somebody new,” Mort said. “We haven’t seen Augustana. They’ve had a solid season. I think their conference has a bottom half we don’t have right now. I think that’s the difference between their record and ours.
“We’re going to have to play good softball. I think the girls are looking forward to it and the extra special treatment with the charter airplane.
“We have a lot of kids on this roster that have never been (to regionals). It’s a different experience. There are kids that never experienced it. If nothing else, you want to make that level every four years to see it. I also think we’re a tough team to contain when our sticks are hot and our pitchers can keep us in it, which they’ve done as of late.”
Woosley has played a big role for the Mavericks. She is barely hitting above .200 (.203), but has played solid defense at the hot corner with a .979 fielding percentage in 33 games. She has one error in 30 games at third base.
“Tawnee’s not the hitter Lauren was, but she just doesn’t have the experience yet,” Mort said. “I think Tawnee is every bit the third baseman and has proven that. She’s actually played a majority of the season over there.
“She’s really quick. She’s learning to get rid of the ball a little quicker. She has quick hands. She’s stepped in really nicely this year. Being her first year of eligibility, she’s really going to be a contributor.
“We’re working on her swing, but she’s very strong. I think she’ll turn into a solid player. She’s done a solid job at third base and I’m pleasantly surprised with that.”
Mesa has gotten solid pitching from Ashley Pulido, who was 2-1 in the RMAC tournament and started all four games.
The sophomore got the start over junior Courtney Maihi after her reaction to playing top seed Colorado Mines right after losing three of four games to the Orediggers in the final regular-season series.
“After the game was over, we knew the outcome of the RMAC bracket,” Mort said. “We’re eight, they’re one and we face them (again). Pulido made a comment, ‘Good, because I want to see them again.’ From that moment on, I decided in the post-game talk she was going to throw the first game against Mines because she felt cheated.
“She’s had good ball movement lately and command of her pitches. She threw 19 strikes and four balls in the first inning of that game in the conference tournament. Because she was so successful in that game, we went with her again.”
Pulido will likely start against Augustana, Mort said, but she’s confident with Maihi in the circle, too.
“I feel confident in either one of them,” Mort said. “Unfortunately we had an injury and have only been able to tandem the two of them. We could’ve used a third person all year long, but you learn to overcome adversities and adjust.”
Augustana is led by a pitching staff with a 2.04 ERA. Ashley Meyer is 24-3 with a 1.61 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 161 innings. The Vikings are hitting .333 with 73 home runs.
“Augustana has a solid No. 1 pitcher that’s one of the top pitchers in the region,” assistant coach Christina Weiser said. “They’re swinging the bats really well. They have two kids with high power numbers. They manufacture runs and are a really skilled team. They’re not going to beat themselves.”
“Augustana has always had a strong tradition and winning program,” Mort said. “We’ll have to play our best softball, but so do they. We need some clutch hits and play solid errorless defense.”