The Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks and Canyon Del Oro Dorados met up for the fourth time this softball season, and when the dust cleared, it was the Nighthawks celebrating a 9-8 win and advancing to the semifinals of the state tournament.
The win by Ironwood over rival and second-seeded CDO was made even more impressive by the fact the Nighthawks faced a 6-1 deficit in the fourth inning, jumpstarted by a three-run homerun from CDO’s Makenzie Sullivan in the first inning.
Then, in the fifth inning, the Nighthawks got busy, scoring five runs to tie the game 6-6.
Senior Robin Landrith said the Nighthawks kept their chins up, even when things were looking grim in the early going.
“It’s really easy to throw in the towel when you’re down like that,” she said. “We kept up our energy and did a good job refocusing.”
The rally was led by Landrith herself, who has been red-hot at bat for the duration of the state tournament. With two outs on board, Landrith connected in a big way with a two-run homerun.
“I’ve had pretty good timing this tournament,” said Landrith. “I love these competitive games, and I think that’s had something to do with my hitting.”
The Nighthawks’ Alexis Clinton contributed with a two-run double to bring Ironwood within one run, and next up, a single by Erin Rocker sent a runner home to even the score at 6-6.
With the game tied leading into the top of the seventh inning, Ironwood’s Robyn Porter hit a low line drive, which appeared to be caught for an inning ending double play, but the play was signaled a “no catch” by the home plate umpire. With the call, the Ironwood runners resumed their base running, but the play was held for discussion. The umpires ultimately gave the runner on third the go-ahead run, thus giving the Nighthawks their first lead of the game at 7-6. No outs were awarded to CDO on the play, and Ironwood finished the inning with two more runs to pull away 9-6.
The Dorados looked to answer in the bottom of the seventh, and with runs from Kenzie Sullivan and Briana Dohogne, CDO looked hopeful to tie the game with Monique Castillo on base.
With Kayla Bonstrom up to bat, Ironwood’s Makayla McAdams intentionally walked her to advance her to first and bring Hannah Sullivan to bat. McAdams shrugged off the pressure by striking out Sullivan with her first three pitches to end the game at 9-8 in Ironwood’s favor.
With the win, the Nighthawks will face the division’s top seed in Peoria Sunrise Mountain on May 9 at the Rose Mofford Complex in Phoenix. The winner of that game will move on to the state championship game, scheduled for May 14 at Arizona State University’s Farrington Stadium at 5:30 p.m.
“Just like any team left in the tournament, Sunrise will be a well-coached team,” said Ironwood coach Randy Anway. “Both teams will go in prepared, with a good game plan, and the best team will come out on top.”
CDO is still alive in the tournament as of Monday. The team faced 24-seed Yuma Gila Ridge in an elimination game on Tuesday. Results of the game were not available before press time.