This year, the Canyon Del Oro High School Dorados girls softball team (35-1) took all of the drama out of their 4A-I state title quest in winning for the fourth time in the last five years.
Last year, the Dorados in the first year of the post-Kenzie Fowler era, came within a strike of the state title game before falling short.
This year, they steamrolled the opposition, as they outscored their last three playoff opponents, 30-3.
In Saturday’s title game at Cherry Field in Tucson, the top-seeded Dorados defeated the sixth-seeded Cienega Bobcats, 11-1.
Senior Marissa Spangler’s second homer of the day clinched the title for the Dorados in the fifth inning. It was quite a feat considering that Spangler didn’t start the game, but she still managed to hit two home runs after coming in off the bench.
Sammi Noland, Katelin Vaughn and Mattie Fowler also homered for CDO. For Fowler, it was her 17th of the season, a school record. Fowler’s pitching wasn’t too bad either. Starting each of the final three playoff games, she surrendered a mere three runs despite the challenging competition.
“We knew this team was special,” said CDO coach Kelly Fowler, Mattie’s mother. “They love the game.”
Did last season’s heartbreaking loss make this year’s team more determined?
“That loss hurt last year,” Kelly Fowler said. “One strike away. The players put in the work and effort (this year). They wanted each other to do well.”
CDO had advanced to the title game by destroying Sahuaro 13-1. Fowler homered twice, while Spangler, Briana Dohogne and Sammi Nettling each homered in that game, another 10-run mercy rule win.
Last Tuesday, in their last home game of the season, the Dorados defeated Scottsdale Saguaro 6-1 in a truly electric atmosphere. Several newspapers and television stations covered the game. The bleachers were packed, and some of the CDO football players who lost the state title game to Scottsdale Saguaro in the fall were at the game to provide encouragement. Also in attendance was former CDO and current University of Arizona pitching star Kenzie Fowler.
The Dorados displayed great pitching, defense and baserunning on Tuesday. The only thing missing were the offensive fireworks.
“Not all of our hitters hit,” said coach Fowler. “I though our defense was amazing. Sammi Noland at third base was incredible.”
In addition to great defense, Noland also had two perfectly placed bunt singles.
Kayla Henry got three singles and wreaked havoc with an infield hit and a stolen base; her heads-up baserunning also led to some opposition errors.
“I try to lead off and let my team get me in,” Henry said. “I use my speed.”
The Dorados scored four runs in the first two innings with singles, Henry’s baserunning, and Sahuaro errors.
Meanwhile, Mattie Fowler carried a two-hit shutout into the sixth inning before she surrendered a solo home run.
“The crowd helped so much,” Fowler said. “It makes it a lot better.”
The Dorados gave Fowler some cushion to work with as they scored two more runs in a wild fifth inning.
Henry opened with a single and stole second base. With one out, Fowler singled her home. Then, Fowler stole second, and was singled home by Brianna Dohogne to make it 6-1.
Coach Fowler was impressed by the audience’s support.
“It was an awesome crowd.”
The seniors were very instrumental as a team well-seasoned with seven seniors lost only once all year.
Fowler, Henry, Spangler, Katherine Peters, Emily McSherry, Kylie Raica and Angela Cilano will never forget their final high school game.
“They’re more mature,” Kelly Fowler said. “You get better with age.”
But credit also needs to be distributed to some less visible people.
“The unsung heroes are the coaches,” Fowler said. “Gale Bundrick and Kevin Glynn. They put in as much time as me. They’re the glue to the team.”