Erie graduate Makayla Kovac is nearing the end of her time with the Colorado Mesa University softball team, just as Frederick alum Alex Dufour is getting started.
A difference in age would have spoiled any type of personal feud between the two players from rivaling schools, but one thing's for sure now: they're making it quite hard not to cheer for each other as fellow Mavericks, a Division II program in Grand Junction that finds itself 30-7 on the season and ranked 23rd nationally.
The senior and the freshman, both starting infielders, are first and second in batting for CMU as of this past weekend. While Dufour's hot start (a .449 batting average) is symbolic of her capabilities for years to come, Kovac (hitting .470) is still adding on to a record career.
A laundry list of accomplishments for Kovac includes being the two-time defending Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference player of the year — and she was tabbed the 2016 preseason player of the year, as well.
It's almost as if those voting knew she would break the conference career marks for home runs and runs batted in — and break them she did with her 57th and 58th blasts coming in recent weeks as well as her 214th RBI.
It's a huge accomplishment for a player that won three state championships with the Tigers.
"I'm pretty excited about it, but I don't think it has hit me fully yet. Later on down the road I really might start to realize what I've accomplished, but I've just been working hard the past four years," Kovac said, up to 231 RBI for her career still with six regular season games left. "Those fundamentals that you learn in high school and summer ball ... it's important to continue to be a student of the game right now. You learn what to expect each at-bat and how pitchers are going to try to adjust to your hitting. It's paid off to pay attention to every coach that I've had in the past and here at Colorado Mesa."
Kovac never considered herself a power hitter in high school, but as soon as she stepped on the CMU campus she took weight training more seriously. Her dedication to getting better is relentless, and it has paid off with honor after honor.
Her consistency is what makes her most proud, though. She has started 197 games and holds a career average of .434.
"It was all about strength and conditioning when I got here," Kovac added. "We got whipped into shape, for sure. "My body feels a whole lot better because of it, though, and I haven't ever felt worn down at all."
Dufour is striving to be as reliable, starting in all but one contest thus far and collecting a team-most 57 hits to go along with 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts. She's shown a knack for adapting quickly to the college game and said the work started as soon as she stepped on campus last fall.
Watching Kovac has been a source of inspiration, too.
"I just came in knowing I needed to raise my own level of play to match the competition around me," said Dufour, whose average has not dipped below .366 all year. "We have a large team and everyone is pushing for a spot, so you do have to work for your chance. I was nervous at first, but settled in and got some hits right away and that made me feel like I belonged.
"Erie was always our rival school, but (Kovac) is a really good player and she deserves those records. It was great seeing someone local getting those and we're all proud of her."