The Colorado Mesa University softball team won back-to-back Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles after a split against Colorado Christian, Sunday, April 23. The team will now host at least one RMAC tournament playoff game.
However, with the accomplishment Ben Garcia and the team have their eyes set to a bigger goal.
“It’s a big honor,” Garcia said. “I’m excited to be able to win the RMAC again, but the thing we are looking at is the bigger picture down the road. Hopefully we’ll host regionals and I think we are playing our best to reach regionals.”
For new players on the team like transfer Abby Toller the opportunity of winning the conference title was a strong probability coming into the program.
“I knew coming in here that this was a really good program,” Toller said. “And I knew that we had a good chance of repeating as RMAC champions because they did a good job last year of winning it.”
And for players, who were apart of the team last season are also happy they won again. For senior outfielder Sarah Phillips she will end her CMU career with three RMAC titles.
“It is nice because hosting the RMAC here means we don’t have to travel and we don’t have to miss classes,” Phillips said. “Plus playing on your own field is much better with all the fans behind you cheering.”
The team finished the regular season by facing off against the Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves. CMU won the first doubleheader, 11-2 and 8-0, on Saturday.
“What setted the tempo was the baserunning,” Garcia said. “We took some extra bases and we are very aggressive in taking some bases and that made [the Thunderwolves] do things that were out of character.”
One key moment of aggressive baserunning came in game two where right fielder Maggie Manwarren reached second base off a single to third base.
“I have always caused chaos,” Manwarren said. “I try to look when the defense isn’t playing attention and I always try to take advantage of that.”
The Mavs struck first in game one in the first inning after first baseman AnnMarie Torres hit a RBI groundout. Then in the second inning, CMU scored another run from a RBI single by Manwarren.
The Mavs added five runs in the third inning including two runs coming from an error by the Thunderwolves to increase the lead to seven.
Designated player Tyneesha Houkamau capped off game one with a three run home run in the fourth inning. Starting pitcher McKenzie Surface won her 22nd game of the season. She went five innings, allowing four hits, two runs and struck out five.
In game two starting pitcher Kimbri Herring was nearly perfect. After allowing a hit to the second batter and the third batter reaching on an error, no Thunderwolves player got on base.
Herring also received help offensively from starting catcher of game two, Toller. She launched a three run home run in the second and a solo home run in the fourth with both landing just inside the left field foul pole.
“They were throwing outside to our hitters, so I was looking for an outside pitch,” Toller said. “My first at-bat they threw me outside on the first pitch and then I saw the inside pitch coming in and I turned on it. And then the second at-bat they were going outside again and I think the pitcher missed her spot and it came in slow and inside and I turned on it again.”
Center fielder Brooke Hodgson added a two run home run in the fifth inning. And Hailey Hinson ended the game with a RBI single in the sixth inning.
Herring received her 13th win of the season. She struck out six including the side in the second inning.
The next day was Senior Day for the softball team. Seniors Baylee Boren and Phillis were honored as both were surrounded by their families and each were given plaques with their jerseys.
“With my whole family being here, I just wanted to go out and have a blast at Senior Day at home,” Boren said. “My team is special and I’m going to miss them a lot.”
CMU finished Senior Day by winning against the Thunderwolves, 8-0 and 13-6.
Phillis ended her last regular season home game with a game inning solo home in game one and then she followed it up with a grand slam in game two.
“I wasn’t seeing the ball well and then it just came natural, there it was,” Phillis said. “The pressure is all on you because you want to do good.”
In game one, CMU scored first with a Torres three run home run in the first inning. Boren added a RBI single in the fourth inning before Hodgson launched a three run home run in the fifth. Philis then smacked a solo home run to end the game.
Surface received her 23rd win of the season. She struck out four and allowed no runs.
Game two started with the Mavs finding themselves behind early. The Thunderwolves scored two in the first inning, but CMU took the lead for good in the second inning.
The team scored seven runs including a two run home run from Hodgson. However, Pueblo cut into the lead over the next three innings with a home run in the third inning and two home runs in the fifth inning. Going into the sixth inning, CMU had a close 7-6 lead.
The Mavs then scored six runs in sixth inning including Phillis’s grand slam to increase the lead to 13-6. Starting pitcher Andy Hancock pitched a perfect seventh inning to end the game.
Hancock received her sixth win of the season. She allowed six runs and eight hits.
Third baseman Bailey Kleespies finished game two going 3-for-4 with three RBIs including a solo home run.
CMU’s record is now 42-6, 35-4 in the RMAC.
The Mavs will next play at home on Thursday in the RMAC tournament.