D-II softball: The Ridge loses title game but they will be back: Anway retiresby Andy Morales on May. 14, 2013, under Sports
DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP
Monday, May 13
4 Ironwood Ridge lost to 1 Sunrise Mountain, 7-0
Ironwood Ridge coach Randy Anway has one of the best jobs in Arizona and one of the hardest. He coached a group of athletes who may have shown their potential a bit earlier than expected but that can only mean better things to come.
Unfortunately, coaching at the highest level also takes up a lot of time and emotion if done correctly and Anway has done more than that…if that is possible.
“I love this job and I still enjoy it,” explained Anway after his team lost the Division-II state championship Monday night in Tempe. “I just don’t have the time to do it anymore.”
Like all of us who have been drawn into coaching one of our children while there are others at home, Anway feels he just can’t keep missing things while telling his children it’s because of softball. He will have two kids entering college and another just had a baby so who can blame him for wanting to spend more time away from the game?
Little Avery was born last August to his daughter Laken. Laken grew up playing club ball with her father and then later at Ironwood Ridge where she was a standout on some of his best teams and he has some really good ones.
Anway guided his 2009 and 2011 teams to state final appearances and he did it again this spring with a team that may have started out a little young and rough but finished experienced and strong. Unfortunately, they came up against a top-seeded Sunrise Mountain team with everything on the line.
The Mustangs came in with 35 wins and only one loss behind the coaching of former University of Arizona All-American catcher Jody Pruitt. Like Anway, Pruitt had guided her school to two final appearances (2004 & 2012) without a win but one of them had to win a championship and her team was more experienced and they were also coming in with memories of last year’s game and CDO’s Kayla Bonstrom.
Canyon del Oro was beating Sunrise Mountain and their ace Taylor Nowlin (Grand Canyon) 9-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh last year but a double from Nowlin helped spark a comeback to send the game into extra innings where Bonstrom hit her seventh post season home run to end the game 11-9.
In that game, Bonstrom was hit-by-pitch twice and she used that for extra motivation heading into the eighth inning. Fast forward to this spring and it was Nowlin who was hit-by-pitch twice. How did Nowlin respond?
Well, Nowlin was so dominating for the circle that she shut down 16 Ironwood Ridge batters in a row after giving up a walk to Reina Bondi and a single to Merilee Miller to start the game. Only a single from Bondi in the top of the sixth broke up her streak but Nowlin went on to erase the next five batters to end the game.
Nowlin finished with 12 strikeouts and held the Ironwood Ridge hitting machine to just 2 for 23 (.087).
Ironwood Ridge junior Emily Robinson came in as one of the hottest pitchers in the state with three shutouts in a row before outlasting Greenway to get into the championship game. Time and an excellent hitting team converged to end Robinson’s post season heroics but she will be back.
Leading the way for Sunrise Mountain was senior catcher Morgan Leonard (Northern Illinois). Leonard finished the game with a single, a double and a triple and three RBIs but all she really needed was her double in the first inning that brought in the Mustang’s winning run.
The win gave Pruitt another victory at ASU’s Farrington Softball Stadium. It was a place where she dominated as a Wildcat but found difficult to win as a top seed in high school. The top seed always takes ASU’s dugout and it never brought her luck until Tuesday night.
“Superstition is a hard thing to break in softball as you know,” explained Pruitt. “But I left all that behind and told our team that we will be better than yesterday and anytime you win you are better than yesterday.”
Also coming to the rescue was former Sunrise Mountain and current Wildcat third baseman Brigette Del Ponte. Del Ponte had won three titles while at Sunrise Mountain (2006, 2008 and 2009 under Nick Rizer).
“Brigette talked to the team,” said Pruitt. “They know who she is and it’s a huge motivation to have alumni come in a represent your school.”
Del Ponte was all smiles from the stands. “It’s awesome to see my school is still winning,” she said. “Jody was my hitting coach when I was just eight years old and she was a major reason why I went to Arizona.”
Also headed to Arizona is Ironwood Ridge soon-to-be junior outfielder Miller. Miller crashed the wall twice to catch deep drives and dove for another that was just out of her reach. “I like aggressive play,” she explained.
“I know how important it is for coach (Mike) Candrea to have his players leaving it all on the field and I feel like I did that today.”
Their bats may have gone cold against Nowlin and Sunrise Mountain but next year is filled with promise. Granted, with no D-I in Southern Arizona next year, things may get a bit more difficult with all the big schools in D-II, but one has to believe the Nighthawks will continue to leave it all on the field.
NOTE: Since breaking the news of Anway’s retirement, I have received several emails inquiring about the vacancy at Ironwood Ridge with two of those coming from the Phoenix area.
This job will be one of the biggest openings in the state regardless of the sport.
A CD of all photos of this game is available for $20.