Colorado Mesa University softball head coach Ben Garcia did not mean to coin the nickname for his speedy leadoff hitters, but it happened. However, the “rabbits” do not mind the nickname as long as they get on base.
“My comment was, ‘If we can get the rabbits on base because they run well then the power hitters can bring them in and do their job,’” Garcia said.
The combo of the no. 1 and no. 2 slap hitters, junior Maggie Manwarren and sophomore Alexandria Dufour, has helped the team become one of the highest scoring team in the RMAC.
“I think it’s funny,” Manwarren said. “Alex and I leadoff and everyone in the dugout tells us before the game, ‘Lead us off bunny rabbit.’ It gets us to think let’s do this, let’s get on base.”
“I know when Maggie and I get on base that there is a lot of pressure for the other team because at any given time we could steal a base or we could beat things out,” Dufour said.
Manwarren’s quickness has also helped her to second in the conference with 29 stolen bases on the season. Garcia believes not only Manwarren’s speed, but her timing and instincts help her run the bases at a proficient rate.
“She knows the game really well,” Garcia said. “Her instincts help her get an advantage because she can read the ball whenever it is going to fall.”
According to Garcia, he believes because of their speed to beat throws in the infield both players have increased their batting average by almost 150 points. Manwarren is currently batting .407 while Dufour is hitting .328.
While being teammates for the Mavs, the duo’s softball backgrounds could not be more different.
Dufour comes from a small town in Colorado named Firestone, where she learned how to play the sport from her softball coach father when she was eight. While being naturally right handed, she learned to bat left as a slap hitter.
“I started pretty young slapping and my dad introduced me,” the listed five feet four inches tall second baseman Dufour said. “I was always a smaller player out there. I didn’t have much height, but I was fast.”
Manwarren comes from a town outside of Las Vegas, Nev., called Henderson. She started playing baseball at a young age and did not play softball until the age of 12.
The natural left handed outfielder started hitting right handed until she was 15 after one day someone told her father that she should become a slap hitter. However, the two did not know what a slap hitter was and had to watch YouTube videos before she taught herself how to be slap hitter.
“Growing up I have always been a hard worker and have tried to be at the top of my game all of the time,” Manwarren said.
In Dufour’s four years of high school, her team was competing for state titles almost every year. Her senior year she helped lead her no. 1 ranked team to the state championship game, but her team lost a close title match. She was then recruited to play for CMU.
For Manwarren, her high school career was uneventful, but she after four years she received a scholarship to play softball at the junior college, Southern Nevada. Her freshman year, her team had a chance to go play at the highest level in the junior college world series.
However, on the day when the game was supposed to be played, the game was cancelled because the field was flooded from the rain. She and her team pleaded that they would travel somewhere else to play, but her coaches would not hear of it.
“When our coaches told us that weren’t going to play and our season was over we started crying,” Manwarren said. “We had one more game to go to the world series.”
Her goal next year was to reach the Junior College World Series, but the team fell short as the team lost many of their best players from the year before.
After finishing up at her two year school, Manwarren wanted to continue to play softball. She talked to her old teammate from summer ball and current CMU catcher Zoe Pakes about CMU’s program.
Pakes gave her Garcia’s contact information. After contacting him, Manwarren sent him a video of herself playing and a week later she visited the campus and signed with the team.
With two different journeys, Manwarren and Dufour arrived at the same destination. And Garcia and the rest of the softball team are appreciative of the duo’s quickness and instincts.
“Speed you can’t coach, but speed can’t help you a lot if you don’t have those softball instincts,” Garcia said. “And both of them have great instincts.”
The Mavs smacked six home runs Saturday afternoon as the team won the first doubleheader against the Colorado Christian University Cougars.
CMU got on the board in the third inning when Dufour hit a two run double to left field. Center fielder Brooke Hodgson then hit a RBI double to increase the lead to 3-0.
Hodgson then followed her double in the right center field with a two run homerun to right center field to increase the lead to five. Pakes and first baseman AnnMarie Torres both added solo home runs in the sixth and seventh inning respectively. CMU won the game 7-0.
Starting pitcher McKenzie Surface won her 20th game of the season. She went seven innings, allowing three hits, one walk and struck out 10.
In game two, Torres started the scoring in the first inning with a two run double. The Mavs added another run in the inning as the Mavs took a 3-0 lead.
After a solo home run by Torres in the third inning, the Cougars cut into the lead, 4-2, with a two run home run. However, the Mavs scored four runs in the fourth inning to increase their lead to 8-2. The inning was capitalized by a two run home run by pitch hitter Sarah Phillis.
CMU increased their lead again in the fifth inning by scoring six runs in the fifth inning. The Cougars added another run in the bottom of the fifth, but the Mavs won the game, 14-3.
Starting pitcher Kimbri Herring received her 12th win of the season. She went four innings, allowing four hits and two runs while striking out seven. Torres went 2-for-2 with four RBIs, while Hodgson and Abby Toller added three RBIs.
On Sunday, the Mavs split the second doubleheader against the Cougars. In game one CMU got on the board in the first inning with a RBI single by Hodgson. The team added two more runs as the Mavs were ahead 3-0.
After a RBI single by Manwarren, Dufour launched a two run home run as CMU took a 6-0 lead. CMU had three more home runs on the day thanks to Hodgson, Torres and Kaila Jacobi. The Mavs won game one, 12-0.
In game two the Mavs scored first in the first inning when Torres hit a sacrifice fly. The Cougars then tied the score at one in the bottom of the first. CMU then score a run in the second and third inning to take a 3-1 lead.
However, the Mavs would not score again on the day as the Cougars used a three run fifth inning to take a 5-3 lead. The Cougars scored another run in the sixth as CMU lost the ballgame 6-3.
Herring suffered her first loss of the season. She allowed seven hits, two walks and five earned runs.
The softball team’s record is now 38-6.
CMU’s next game will be at home against the Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves at 12 p.m. on Saturday, April 29.