Halle Morris stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with a shot at providing a Hollywood ending to Canyon del Oro High School’s softball senior day home finale Tuesday evening.
The senior, who whirled two innings of scoreless relief to get the Dorados (12-5, 8-2) to the ninth against visiting Vista Grande, did just that, giving CDO a 6-5 victory.
Morris, two years removed from what head coach Kelly Fowler described as a “devastating” leg injury, smashed a line drive that cut through howling wind, clearing the left-center field fence by mere feet.
For her effort, Morris was met at home plate by a mob of joyous Dorados, who engulfed her in celebration of their one-run victory over the Spartans.
The senior’s heroics cut through what was a gloomy, overcast day, providing Fowler and Morris’ teammates plenty of reason to be happy.
“I think that's how you write it,” Fowler said. “In books, that's how it happens, and there's a dream that came true. So, I'm so happy it was her; just beautiful.”
Morris was unsure whether her rocket was going to clear the fence at first, but said watching the ball do so was an experience she’ll never forget.
“She had gotten me on inside pitches both in the last two at-bats,” Morris said. “So I just opened up and hit it, and I didn't think it went over. I thought it hit the fence, so when I was rounding first and I saw it go over—that was great. And then just coming home and meeting my team ... That was the best part of it.”
The Dorados path to victory against Vista Grande appeared rather mundane at first, after CDO scored four runs in the game’s first two innings.
The Spartans never flinched, scoring twice in the top of the fourth inning, once in the fifth and twice more in the sixth to tie the game at 5.
Fowler said her team’s motto all year has been to shirk the fear of competition, replacing doubt with a ferocious belief in what this year’s Dorado squad is capable of.
She’s confident the team’s ability to stare down failure and come out victorious against the Spartans is a sign of what they’re capable of in the 4A playoffs, which start Tuesday, April 30.
“They’ve got to believe in themselves, you know,” Fowler said. “And I told them their motto is ‘don't fear, fear.’ You know, go up and do the best you can. So, I think they'll be right there.”
Senior Hope Banales, who went 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored in Tuesday’s victory, summed up the importance of the team’s senior day victory.
“Today was big,” she said. “I think the weather really shows how that game was. It was like a roller coaster. There was rain. There was sun, the clouds. And so, I think that our team really fought to win that game, and it was fun to play. It was a good senior night.”
For Fowler, Tuesday’s victory summarizes the season to-date for her squad, with the Dorados winning the games they need to win to ensure a quality seed in the postseason.
The longtime CDO coach’s quest for the program’s 10th state title hinges on their ability to come through in the clutch when it matters most.
For one day, Fowler’s squad was able to do just that, coming through with a perfect ending to a regular season that could feature more dramatics in the weeks to come.
“We're peaking,” Fowler said. “It's taken us awhile. We have so many young kids, to get everybody rolling. And they've got great chemistry. They know where they're at and they want to win. I think that's a big accomplishment.”
Around the Region:
The six softball programs of northwest Tucson had varying levels of success on the softball diamond last week.
The Dorados played in the Las Vegas Spring Softball Jamboree tournament over the weekend, beating Banning (California), 3-0, before falling to Shadow Ridge of Las Vegas, 9-4. The Dorados closed out the regular season at Rio Rico after deadline on Monday, heading into the game with a 13-6 record.
The Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks (20-4) closed out their regular season by winning two of three, beating Gilbert, 8-0, and Buena, 14-2, before falling to Cienega, 13-6, in their finale.
Marana (11-9) beat Cienega, 4-2, and Nogales, 17-0, last week, closing out their regular season Monday after deadline against Rincon/University High School.
Mountain View (18-8) finished their regular season with wins over Cholla, 15-0, and Flowing Wells, 10-0, before falling to Empire, 1-0, in their regular season finale.
Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (13-10) split their games last week, falling to Sahuarita, 2-1, before beating Tanque Verde, 12-2. The Lions closed their regular season with a game against Safford Monday after deadline.
Catalina Foothills (6-19) closed its regular season with losses to Salpointe Catholic, 6-0, and Sahuaro, 9-6.
The play-in round of the 3A, 4A and 5A tournaments will be held Wednesday, April 24 at 4 p.m., with the higher seeded team hosting the round.