Shelby Thompson IRHS softball

Ironwood Ridge junior pitcher Shelby Thompson, warming up for Nogales High School Friday, April 5.

The course of last Thursday’s softball clash between Canyon del Oro and visiting Casa Grande swung on a bloop single to right field. 

The hit, which came off the bat of junior pitcher Amya Legarra, died just past the outstretched arms of a Casa Grande infielder, bringing home the game-winning run from third.

Legarra, who struck out 14 Cougars in seven innings of work in the pitcher’s circle in the Dorados’ 3-2 victory, was able to put a fitting conclusion on a game she dominated.

Her game-winning, walk-off single gave the home side a one-run victory, giving the Dorados (10-4, 6-1) a solid rebound from their one-run loss to Buena in Sierra Vista Wednesday afternoon.

Assistant coach Kevin Glynn commended his players for their fight against a tough Cougars squad.

“We were just telling the girls that they proved that they have fight,” Glynn said. “And we know that, just because we’re losing late in the game, it doesn’t mean anything. So, we know that they’re going to work hard and keep trying.”

Legarra dazzled for much of the day in the circle, allowing two runs in the third inning on a hard-hit single.

The tall junior, who is 5-1 with a 1.11 ERA in the circle this season, said last Thursday’s one-run win speaks to the team’s ability to overcome adversity.

“I thought we could have cleaned up our defense a bit better,” Legarra said. “But I thought we had good fight at the end.”

Legarra’s game-winning single in the seventh was made possible by a combination of timely hits and plate discipline, with teammate Halle Morris driving in the tying run on a safety squeeze bunt earlier in the frame.

Glynn said he had no doubt in his mind that Legarra would come through at the plate, continuing her string of clutch performances this season.

“I knew [the hit] was in,” he said. “I didn’t want it to go into extra innings, so it was pretty much expected. We expected a lot from her, and she came through. She’s come through a lot for us this season. She’s a clutch player.”

Glynn commended Legarra and her teammates for their ability to keep a level head, when little was clicking early at the plate. He believes the squad will learn from their close losses, gaining valuable insights for next month’s playoff chase.

Glynn said a key component of this year’s team is the level of camaraderie shared by players, both on the diamond and in the dugout.

“The main thing that’s so special about this team is that, whether they’re playing or not, they’re cheering for the rest of the team,” he said. “And they know, when they’re not playing, that they need to be ready to play, because we have so many kids that are going to get thrown into key situations, so you have better be ready.”

Senior outfielder Hope Banales, who scored one of the team’s three runs against Casa Grande, summed up the bond that this year’s team shares. For her, the key component is their shared desire to live up to the lofty standards associated with the Dorados softball program under Fowler, with nine state titles to its name.

 “It means a lot, when we wear the jerseys,” Banales said. “I feel like we have a standard to go up to and a lot of the girls before us set that standard for us.”

The Dorados also beat regional rival Catalina Foothills last Friday afternoon, 16-2, thanks to an offensive explosion. The Dorados scored runs in all five innings, with seven coming in the game’s second inning. 

Five Dorados had two or more hits in the one-sided win, with Banales and teammate Halle Morris collecting three apiece, while Reina Molina, Mia Campos, Legarra and Marissa Navarrette had two hits apiece. 

Morris handled pitching duties for the Dorados, giving up two runs in five innings of work, racking up nine strikeouts, while walking five Falcons in the process. The Dorados returned to the diamond after deadline on Tuesday to play Sahuaro before closing the week with a road game against Salpointe Catholic at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 12. 

IRHS blanks Nogales, 14-0

As the Dorados were facing off against the Falcons, the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks put the visiting Nogales Apaches away with ease, blanking their visitors, 14-0. 

The Nighthawks (16-2, 6-0) made quick work of the Apaches, scoring seven runs in the game’s first inning. 

Dave Martinez, who’s in his second year coaching the Nighthawks, believes this year’s squad has a shot at doing something special. 

Martinez, who led the program to the 5A state final a year ago, believes this year’s team has the right mixture of confidence and camaraderie to contend for a title. 

“They’re getting tighter and tighter as a group, and there’s some really special kids as far as talent is concerned, and they’re buying into what we’re doing as a staff,” Martinez said. “That’s super important, we’ve got leaders that are really buying into what we’re doing and they’re leading.”

The Nighthawks have won eight consecutive games thanks a relentless drive Martinez and his staff honed through practice and in-game competition. Martinez believes the team, which played against regional foe Marana after deadline on Tuesday, has embraced the grind that is the high school softball season. 

Despite their recent successes, Martinez knows the long season can devastate team morale, and his staff is spending time to ensure players are doing well, both on and off the field.

“This team has really taken to doing things the right way, practice hard and we’re channeling back a little bit just because the weather and it’s been a long season for these kids, they’ve been going at it for a long time,” Martinez said. “We’re playing two, three, games a week, it starts to wear on them.”

Junior infielder Jaiden Reid, who’s hitting .481 this season, believes the Nighthawks have used last year’s championship game loss to Cienega to their advantage. 

“Losing the championship game never feels good. So, our motivation was to get back there and kind of get revenge,” Reid said. “That’s pretty much what we’ve been doing this whole season.”

Martinez knows not to rest on his laurels, with a fast start doing nothing to deter the team’s desire to win the school’s third state title, and first since 2014. 

“We know that we can get better and we’re going to continue to work to get better until the end of the season and we’ll see where we land, but I like where we’re headed,” Martinez said. 

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