When the No. 23 Tucson baseball team walks onto Canyon del Oro’s diamond today at 11 a.m., the scene will feel all too familiar for the Dorados.
Exactly two weeks prior, the Badgers came in and shocked CDO 2-1. Same hour, same place, and even the same opposing pitcher, Tucson ace Trevelle Hill.
This time around, with the stakes higher in the opening round of the Division II state tournament, 10th-seeded CDO is hoping for a different result.
“It’s kind of revenge,” Dorados junior Erick Migueles said.
CDO has not lost since dropping the nail-biter to Tucson, including back-to-back wins against playoff opponents Palo Verde and Catalina Foothills to close out the season.
The Star caught up with the Dorados to see what’s going right for them as they enter the playoffs.
The heart of the CDO lineup has some of the biggest bats in the state. Migueles’ 10 home runs is tied for the most in Division II, and junior Nick Ames sits just behind with nine.
“We have probably the best lineup in the state,” senior pitcher Paul Avila said.
The 2-3-4 order of sophomore Tristan Peterson (five home runs), Migueles and Ames doesn’t just have incredible pop, though. It also has consistency. The trio has a combined on-base percentage of .594 this season and at least two hits in every game.
Coach Stephen Ambuehl said their dependability has been key during CDO’s 21-6 run through the regular season, especially after some injuries to the pitching rotation. Yet the added benefit of power isn’t a luxury he takes for granted. As Ambuehl pointed out, you can’t defend a home run.
“It creates a dynamic you don’t always have in high school baseball,” he said.
Rising to the occasion
Foothills and Palo Verde aren’t the only Division II or III playoff teams to be bested by the Dorados. Actually, the loss to Tucson was more of the anomaly.
CDO has won nine of its 12 games against playoff foes this season, and the three losses — No. 4 Nogales, No. 9 Sunnyside and Tucson — all came by one run.
“If we do what we do to the best of our ability and eliminate as many weaknesses as we can, then we should be on the winning end of every game,” Ambuehl said. “We feel like we’re in a position where we’re ready, we’re focused, and we’re hungry.”
The CDO pitching staff has struggled at times since losing its ace, junior Max Smith, in early April to an arm injury. The average runs allowed jumped to 4.7 over the past 11 games from the 3.1 runs it was allowing.
But a rotation reliant on balance — with five players pitching more than 20 innings — might finally have found its leading man.
Avila didn’t make a start before April 3 and had just two relief appearances on varsity before this season. Since Smith went down, though, Avila has a 1.40 ERA and a 3-0 record in four starts.
“So far, so good,” Avila said about his new role. “I can’t really say I’m the best out there; I just put my team in the best position to win. I’m not that guy who’s going to strike out 20 guys a game. I just get outs.”