CDO, Pusch Ridge and St. David to play for state championshipsby Andy Morales on May. 12, 2012, under Sports
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Kayla Bonstrom’s sixth home run of the post season put Canyon del Oro up 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. That lead, combined with her powerful swing and dominance in the circle, would usually be more than enough to pace the Dorados over almost any other team they have faced this year.
Ironwood Ridge is not like any other team. Not only are the Nighthawks well coached, they play solid defense, hit the ball hard and have a handful of college recruits who understand the game is not over until they say it is over.
They are led by pitcher Makayla McAdams (New Mexico State) and catcher Robin Landrith (Baylor). They have become one of the premier batteries in the state and they had a huge part in turning back CDO three out of four times prior to their last game on Friday night.
CDO and The Ridge have played each other five times this year and huge leads have been blown and games have been won or lost with the last batter standing at the plate. No lead is safe.
Bonstrom held Ironwood Ridge in the first two innings to preserve her slim lead but a lead-off single to Rachel Synkelma in the top of the third inning put that lead in jeopardy. Both teams have seen leads of five runs evaporate in the various games they have played against each other this year so a one run deficit proved to be meaningless.
Merrilee Miller followed with another single and Nighthawk coach Randy Anway called upon Jordan Rocker to move the two runners over into scoring position. It was the logical move, considering Landrith was due up next.
Landrith has also displayed a bit of power at the plate in the post season but no one could expect that she could take a pitch off of the standard that holds up the scoreboard in center field. Her shot hit the pole so hard that it bounced back into the playing field causing her to pause at second base, obviously wondering if she was held to a double.
She looked over and saw her teammates waiting for her at home and her coach waving her in. Landrith had just given her pitcher a 3-1 lead and McAdams made the most of it.
“I felt like it was out,” explained Landrith. “I’m just at a lost for words right now. I know we had a great year and we accomplished a lot on and off the field.”
Landrith is part of one of the great catching traditions in baseball. Her grandfather Hobie Landrith caught for Michigan State, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Senators. Her father David Landrith was part of Arizona’s 1980 championship team that included Terry Francona and Ed Vosberg and her brother Tyler Landrith just finished up catching for Eastern Arizona.
Robyn Porter hit a solo shot in the top of the fourth inning to expand the lead to 4-1 and Erin Satterfield scored on a bases loaded error to give Ironwood Ridge a 5-1 lead.
McAdams gave up a hit to Hannah Sullivan in the bottom of the fourth and the Dorados threatened to load the bases for Bonstrom but McAdams induced a ground ball to get out of the threat.
Ironwood Ridge has selected to intentionally walk Bonstrom seven times rather than face the wrath of her bat more than they needed to. Her only two official at bats resulted in home runs so we will never know if Ironwood Ridge would have walked her again with the bases loaded with a 5-1 lead. I would have.
Bonstrom came up in the bottom of the fifth and took first base on four pitches. Sammy Nettling came up one out later and put the ball just past the short stop and Makenzie Sullivan followed that with a slicing home run that found the right field bleachers.
Ironwood Ridge had seen their lead fall to 5-4 but it was still a lead.
CDO was not finished, however. Briana Dohogne singled to left and Hannah Sullivan collected another hit to put two runners on for Katelin Vaughn.
Vaughn fouled off numerous pitches before she yanked a ball over the left field fence to put CDO up 7-6. Alexis Aguirre followed with a triple to the fence but she was thrown out after she over ran third base.
“I just wanted to leave everything on the field,” said Vaughn. It’s the best feeling in the world. We are Dorados and we know what it takes to win in the end.”
Still, the Nighthawks were not giving up. Miller hit a triple past a diving Vaughn in the sixth inning and Rocker hit a sacrifice fly to score Miller. Landrith came up and hit the ball midway up the center field fence on a ball that looked like it too was going to go over.
Bonstrom led off the bottom of the sixth with another walk and the Noland singled to left. Nettling knocked in Bonstrom and Dohogne brought in Noland. Hannah Sullivan placed the ball on the right side to score Nettling and then Vaughn singled to score Dohogne.
CDO got their insurance runs and went into the final inning up 11-6. Ironwood Ridge fought to the end and got two runners on in the seventh but Bonstrom held on for the win and a trip to the D-II state championship game on Monday night against Sunrise Mountain.
“This means almost everything,” said CDO coach Stephanie Nicholson. “I told them when we lost to Ironwood Ridge that we would have to go back and beat all the teams again to get back to the championship game. The girls deserve all the credit…I’m just trying to keep them contained.”
Besides McAdams and Landrith, Ironwood Ridge loses Lauren Robinson (Northwest University), Erin Satterfield (North Carolina), Erin Winkle and Jordan Rocker. Besides the overwhelming talent on the Sahuaro and Sabino teams, these athletes formed the foundation of one of the most talented group of softball players to not win a championship.
It may not do the graduating seniors any good, but the softball community is well aware of the talent that will be pouring into the Ironwood Ridge program over the next two years. The Nighthawks will be back.
The focus now shifts to summer ball for many of the players and quite a few of the opposing players on the field Friday night will become teammates on various club teams. McAdams, Satterfield and Landrith will be joining a few Dorados in the Desert Thunder organization and “kicking butt” with them is a prospect that has McAdams excited but she is only beginning to realize her high school career is now over.
“I am going to miss these girls the most,” McAdams said while watching her teammates moving about the crowd after the game. “I will never have the same bond that I had with these girls.”
Pusch Ridge scored seven runs in the third inning to pace themselves to an 8-3 victory over Northwest Christian and a trip to the D-IV state championship game against St. Johns on Saturday night.
The Lions were runners-up last year to Benson and in 2005 to Scottsdale Christian. The school won a championship in 1997 under its previous name of Palo Verde Christian.
St. Johns defeated St. David in the other semifinal game to make Pusch Ridge and Canyon del Oro the only schools from Southern Arizona left in softball. The two schools are literally across the street from each other in Oro Valley.
CDO has won seven titles including last year. Sunrise Mountain has won three titles.
Elimination Bracket: Friday, May 11
2 Canyon del Oro beat 3 Ironwood Ridge, 11-6
Championship Game: Monday, May 14
2 Canyon del Oro vs. 1 Sunrise Mountain, 5:30 pm
Semifinals: Friday, May 11
1 Pusch Ridge beat 4 Northwest Christian, 8-3
7 St. David lost to 6 St. Johns, 3-2
Championship Game: Saturday, May 12
1 Pusch Ridge vs 6 St. Johns, 5 pm
St. David finished in second place last year to Tanque Verde but the Tigers are back again for a shot at their 17th championship. They beat a surprising San Manuel team to get there.
The title game will be played against Yuma Catholic on Saturday night in Tempe. Yuma Catholic has one championship to their name and San Manuel has five.
Semifinals: Friday, May 11
2 St. David beat 22 San Manuel, 10-4
Championship Game: Saturday, May 12
2 St. David vs. 4 Yuma Catholic, 7:30 pm