The Canyon del Oro baseball team had a week full of highs before they fell in the final game of the Lancer Baseball Classic.
The Dorados (11-3-1) beat a quintet of quality teams in Rincon/University (22-1), Sahuarita (6-0), Enid (17-5), Faith Christian (8-0) and Catalina Foothills (6-5), before falling to Blanchard (Oklahoma), 14-4 in the finals last Friday night.
The Dorados’ win over the Falcons that afternoon was the most thrilling of the bunch, with freshman Dominic Felix providing some extra-inning heroics to finish the contest.
The Dorados, who were neck-and-neck with the Falcons through six innings of play, won the contest on a base hit by the freshman, driving in the winning run.
First year CDO coach Jason Hisey was thrilled with the performance of his team full of youthful players, calling the spring break tournament a learning experience.
“We have a lot of young players,” Hisey said. “We have a lot of sophomores. We have some freshmen that are playing. I think the first couple weeks of the season they were a little uncertain and I think the more that they play, the more they play well, the more they believe they can play well and competence breeds confidence and that’s kind of what’s happening.”
Longtime Catalina Foothills coach Jim Baldwin shared a similarly upbeat outlook about his own team’s performance during the tournament.
Baldwin, whose Falcons went 4-1 in the classic, is proud of the way his squad fought against the Dorados in Friday’s semifinal round.
Baldwin knows his team will learn a lot from playing against such tough competition, with players and coaches finding out a lot about the team’s character during the week.
“It’s always encouraging when you compete,” Baldwin said. “I think every game in here, we competed hard as a team.”
The Falcons, who beat Cholla (11-1), Flagstaff (12-10), Faith Christian (6-1) and Cactus (5-4) during the tournament, sit at 11-5 for the season, with a home game against Casa Grande awaiting them this Friday, March 29.
Baldwin believes he’s discovered his team’s fight and resolve during the tournament, thanks to the high level of competition faced during the week.
“You get to face guys you don’t see all the time,” he said. “So that’s a good thing, it’s a good matchup, and the kids get excited about it, too. A tournament like this, you see who you have really. Especially young guys. The young guys really, can they step or not, can they play at this level and this speed? I love these types of tournament, because you find out what you’ve got.”
Several of the Dorados’ players, including senior infielder and pitcher Enrique ‘Kiko’ Romero, who went 2-for-4 at the plate, in addition to pitching four innings of one-run relief against the Falcons, shared a similar story about the tournament.
Romero believes CDO has learned a lot from their experience at Reid Park, with the team’s offense coming into form over the course of the week.
The senior said he was proud of the way they fought during Friday’s semifinal win over the Falcons, with the team coming into form at the perfect moment in time.
“It starts kind of slow,” Romero said. “First time I was batting there it was kind of slow, but second round, second, third, fourth time around we started hitting the crap out of the ball.”
Friday night’s finale against Blanchard didn’t go as planned for Hisey’s squad, with the team falling behind early, 8-0, before scoring four runs in the third inning.
Sophomore pitcher and infielder Dante Schindler, who went 1-for-2 with an RBI in Friday’s finale, believes the team can learn a lot from all five of their games, including their eventual 10-run loss.
“When our offense started scoring a lot of runs and that helped a lot,” Schindler said. “Knowing that I had run support and I could throw strikes and give up a few hits helped a lot.”
Hisey is confident in his pitching staff, with Schindler slotting in behind seniors Ben Cordova and Nate Martinez, who have gone 6-0 combined this season. He believes that Schindler, like his other pitchers, has a chance to be special thanks to his ability to locate all of his pitches, keeping hitters at-bay.
“The good thing about both Dante and Martinez is that they can throw multiple pitches for strikes and so you always know that you’re not going to give free bases away throughout the game unless you can’t field,” Hisey said. “They’re going to make guys swing the bat. We knew that he was going to stay in the game, it was just a matter of us cleaning up the wdefense.”
Hisey’s squad will travel to Sahuaro High School this Thursday, March 28 before returning home to host Salpointe the following afternoon.