Northwest softball squads are pushing through their 2009 seasons, led by Canyon del Oro and its defending state champions.
Here’s a glance.
Canyon Del Oro
When a team scores first, but doesn’t score for the rest of the game, it usually doesn’t point toward padding the win column.
However, if that team scores 13 runs in the first inning of a softball game, it’s probably in pretty good shape.
That March 6 victory over Palo Verde pretty much summed up how the 2009 season has gone for the Dorados.
Senior Kenzie Fowler, the 2008 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year, pitched in that game, and many more since, leading CDO to a 12-0 record, and the top spot in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power rankings.
The defending state champion Dorados have now won 31 straight, an entire year without a loss.
A big part of CDO’s dominance has been a stifling mound presence from Fowler, as well as sophomore Janelle Christman and Kenzie’s sister, junior Mattie Fowler. The Dorados have allowed one run this season, in an 11-1 rout of Sahuarita in late February.
But pitching and defense are not CDO’s only strengths. The Dorados are also dominant at the plate, scoring 111 runs on the still-young season.
The Fowler sisters, along with senior captains Lindsey Weldon and Katie Asher, have all wielded big bats this season. In a rematch of last year’s state title on Friday against Sahuaro, Mattie Fowler went 2 for 3, with two RBIs.
“We’re really lucky we have three seniors (Weldon, Asher and Kenzie Fowler) that have all been stars for four years,” said head coach Amy Swiderski. “(Asher) has the state home run record and (Weldon) hit the winning run in at state last year.”
Off the field, the trio are just as important, according to Swiderski.
“Not only as athletes, but they all have really strong character,” said Swiderski. “They’re good people, and they’re doing a great job of leading.”
In spite of the 2008 state title banner currently hanging in CDO’s gym, a loaded roster, and this season’s gaudy statistics and pristine record, the Dorados will not be looking past any opponents, said Swiderski.
CDO’s mindset coming into this season was, “to never take anything for granted, try to take each game one day at a time,” she said.
“In the beginning of the year we set daily goals, and goals for each game, and we try to not look past the game,” she added. “It really keeps the players focused.”
For the Palo Verde game, the goals were to “score first, to never strike out looking, and to not commit any defensive errors,” said Swiderski. “It really helps to have those achievable goals.”
For a team that was ranked #2 in ESPN’s Preseason Fab 50 national softball rankings, and has lived up to expectations, all goals look achievable.
The 2008 Nighthawks softball team played the Cinderella role in the state playoffs, taking a #8-seed and moving all the way to the state title game before losing to Peoria Sunrise Mountain to finish 19-13-1.
Ironwood Ridge is off to a 2-4 start in 2009. The good news for Nighthawk fans: last season, Ironwood Ridge started out 2-5 and was 13-13 in late April, before a six-game win streak propelled them to the title game.
For lightning to strike twice, the young Nighthawks will be counting on a trio of freshmen who have shown good skill at the plate. Makayla McAdams, Erin Satterfield and Robin Landrith have proven able to tackle some of the best pitching in Arizona. In an 11-5 March 12 loss to 2008 state runner-up Sahuaro, McAdams and Landrith and Satterfield all recorded solid offensive statistics. The sole senior on the roster, Jennifer Coldren, will be counted on for veteran leadership in addition to offensive production.
McAdams also provides a push on the mound, as does one of the few returnees, junior Michael Pless.
Last season, the Tigers finished 13-17. This season, counting on a young roster that includes only three seniors, Marana is already slightly ahead of that pace. After losing their first two games, against Cienega and Sabino, by a combined score of 28-2, the Tigers have won four of their last six, including a victory over rival Mountain View, and now sit at 4-4.
Marana has shown it is capable of some big offensive performances, including a 7-1 win over Cholla in the Dorado Classic tournament in late February, and a 9-8 squeaker over Casa Grande in the Badger Invitational on March 14. Seniors Jen Pirrone, Marlina Delisa and Toni-Mo Ramirez have provided some much-needed firepower, as well as on-field veteran leadership for a young team.
Sophomore Jessie Wingert and junior Jackie Deen also contribute to the offensive game plan for the Tigers.
On the defensive side, a youthful pitching staff comprised of sophomore Shayna Binnion and freshmen Courtney Lacaillade and Sammie Merriman are learning on the job. They’ve shown flashes of brilliance during the first weeks of the season.
The Mountain Lions seem to have picked up where last season’s 13-18 record left off.
This season’s team is 3-5, a record that includes a loss to rival Marana.
For Mountain View to make a run at the postseason in 2009, they will look to a group of talented seniors to put points on the scoreboard. Nicole Melendez, Marissa Bunge, Lena Cornell, Morgan Jacobs, and Kiersten Keene all return as the leaders of a Mountain Lion team in need of offensive firepower. Melendez, Bunge and Cornell have proven especially adept at scoring runs – they all contributed a run in a 12-2 mercy rule victory over Pueblo early in the season, with Jacobs adding a home run. Sophomore Cassandra Rincon, despite a name that echoes one of Mountain View’s divisional rivals (the Rincon Rangers), has given the offense a boost as well, from both the designated hitter position as well as at catcher.
Cornell is also the pitching staff’s most experienced player, but junior Marisol Garcia, sophomores Sarah Gaalswijk and Alaina Deveny and freshman Gabby Sanchez will be called upon to stifle opposing batters throughout the rest of the season.
Last season was, by all estimates, a successful year for the Lions. Pusch Ridge finished that season 21-8, tops in the 2A South region, and made it all the way to the semifinals of the state tournament before falling to eventual state runner-up Phoenix Northwest Christian.
This season looks like much of the same for the Lions, who are 7-1-1, and ranked #2 in Arizona by the AIA.
Part of that success comes from a prolific offense that scored 20 points against Baboquivari two weeks ago, and a young slugger who leads the 2A South in almost every recorded offensive category.
Freshman Rachel Ward leads the league in batting average with an astounding.667, slugging percentage with .917, RBIs with five and on-base percentage at .714.
Ward is not the only offensive weapon in the Lions’ arsenal.
Seniors Morgan Van Stelle and Andrea Alameda, at .357 and .333 round out the top three in batting average, and freshman Corrie Ward and senior Allyse Sanders are not far behind with averages of .320 and .316, respectively. On the basepaths, freshman Sarah Majors gives opposing pitchers reason to be cautious, leading the 2A South in steals with nine.
It is not all offense, of course – the Lions have held opponents to 17 runs in nine games, while scoring 78.
Corrie Ward is the focal point of the pitching game for Pusch Ridge, and hold the regional lead in ERA with a 1.90, and in strikeouts with 46. Another freshman, Paige Sheppard, and junior Quincy Cooper and senior Andrea Alameda round out the Lions’ hurling crew.