The Canyon Del Oro Dorados breathed a sigh of relief after mounting a comeback to defeat the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks on Friday night at Cherry Field. With the win, the Dorados advanced to Monday night’s Division II state softball championship game at Arizona State University’s Farrington Stadium, where they faced Peoria Sunrise Mountain.
Friday’s game marked the second time rivals CDO and Ironwood Ridge met in the tournament. In the first go-around, Ironwood edged CDO 9-8 to send the Dorados to the loser’s bracket. Despite the loss, the Dorados avoided double elimination by defeating Gila Ridge and Sabino to set up the rematch with the Nighthawks, who suffered their first loss to Peoria Sunrise Mountain on May 9.
“We knew we were going to come back up from the loser’s bracket, and anyone that got in our way, heaven help them,” said CDO coach Stephanie Nicholson.
Down 5-1 leading into the bottom of the fifth inning, it was the Dorados who needed help after a three-run homer by Robin Landrith and a solo homer by Robyn Porter gave the Nighthawks the edge.
Thanks largely to Makenzie Sullivan and Katelin Vaughn, the Dorados got that help.
With Kayla Bonstrum and Samantha Nettling on base, Sullivan smacked a three-run homer out of the park to close the deficit to one run.
“I had a bad first at bat, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again,” said Sullivan. “I made a mental adjustment the second time around and it worked out.”
Sullivan’s homer gave the Dorados the needed momentum. Down 5-4, Vaughn connected with a three-run homer of her own to give the Dorados a 7-5 advantage.
“I just had this feeling about Katelin tonight,” said Nicholson. “I had faith she was going to do something big tonight, and she did.”
Still, the Nighthawks refused to go down easily, pulling within one after Jordan Rocker smacked one into deep centerfield, allowing Merilee Miller to narrowly beat the throw at home, bringing the score to 7-6.
But the Dorados’ bats were just too hot. They earned four more runs in the bottom of the sixth to build an 11-6 lead, and Bonstrom sealed the deal with a game winning strikeout to send the Dorados into celebration and contention for a repeat state championship.
“I’m looking to add another ring to these fingers,” said senior Hannah Sullivan. “We’re looking forward to winning it all at state again.”
Ironwood Ridge finished the season with a 31-6 record and looks to rebound with another state championship run in 2013.