GRAND JUNCTION — If there were any questions as to whether Makayla Kovac would adjust to the college softball ranks, not that there were many, the former Erie star is well on her way to answering them.
As a true freshman at Colorado Mesa University, Kovac is leading the RMAC with 11 doubles, is sixth with a .434 batting average, sits third in RBIs and is fourth with nine home runs.
There was a time Kovac herself feared she may fizzle at the next level. Those times are far in her rearview now, as she’s rediscovered her passion for the game.
“I do like the coaching here a lot. It makes me really excited,” said Kovac, who also is 5 for 5 on stolen base attempts. “Coming in here I was kind of burnt out but they make the game fun and really exciting. It makes me want to get out there hit the ball every day and play well in the field.”
A major reason the Mavericks are 18-11-1, Kovac is best on the team in average, runs, home runs, doubles, RBIs and defensive assists at shortstop.
For the 2012 high school graduate, the biggest adjustment to college ball has been the regimented lifestyle and professional approach to the game.
“It’s been a lot different. For one, you have so many rules,” Kovac said. “You have to have your shirt tucked in all the time and you can’t talk to your parents between games. It’s a lot more professional, I guess, and makes you focus on what we’re doing and why we’re here. I kind of enjoy that aspect.”
As productive as the 5-foot-5 infielder is now, Kovac said she didn’t become comfortable at Colorado Mesa until the second weekend of the season. Once she got used to how good players are up and down the lineup, and that she could hang, Kovac found a different level of focus in order to improve.
First-year Mavericks head coach Candace Abrams recognized Kovac’s natural athletic ability and the way she was attacking pitchers in preseason workouts. It was clear to Abrams early that Kovac could be a key contributor right away.
Abrams also said Kovac’s status as a relatively unknown first-year player has been a boost to her success.
“Sometimes freshmen have a little bit of an edge in college softball because opposing teams don’t know who they are. Yes, she’s from Colorado. She sees the ball really well and puts a good swing on it every time she steps up to the plate.”
Praising Kovac for her passion and hard work, Abrams said she has quickly become a leader on the team despite her young age. Her crucial defensive position and high spot in the batting order demand it.
“That’s what you look for, from a shortstop especially,” Abrams said. “They’re sort of the second leader behind the catcher. She’s not a big talker but she leads with her actions and the things she does. That’s what you look for as a coach.”
She’s taken care of business for the all-new coaching staff at Mesa but it hasn’t been all business for Kovac. She gets to enjoy instructing at team camps and having kids approach her in admiration.
Kovac is also close enough to home that her father Kevin Kovac and family can come watch her play. She also was able to watch Erie, where she holds school records with 39 RBIs in a season and a .728 career slugging percentage, at the 2012 state semifinals.
Kovac did her part through three state championship runs for Erie. Now she’s doing her part for the Mavericks.
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