TEMPE – The scoreboard was much kinder to Canyon del Oro this time around, but the result was the same. Another loss to Ironwood Ridge and another quiet trip home.
“Disappointment. Disbelief,” senior Samantha Nettling said. “Still a 2-1 score and losing to a great team. Did we feel like we played our best? No. But I’d rather go out this way than any other way.”
It’s hard to believe this same CDO team lost to I-Ridge 17-0 less than two weeks earlier, as the Dorados remained in striking distance throughout the Division II state softball final Monday night.
Yet a young CDO (28-8) side, with just three contributing seniors, couldn’t come up with the big hits when they were needed. I-Ridge’s Emily Robinson sat down 10 of the last 11 Dorados with the final three outs all coming early in the count.
“We were a little too impatient at the plate,” Nettling said, “swinging at first pitches when we needed to see a little more, make (Robinson) work a little harder.”
Inexperience is rarely a word associated with the Dorados, as CDO won back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012.
Only six current players were a part of the 11-9 eighth-inning victory over top-seeded Peoria Sunrise Mountain in 2012, though. Next year Nettling will be off at Northwestern, Becca Ziegler at Penn State and Makenzie Sullivan at Boise State.
Yet, the cupboard will be far from barren.
“There is no deficit in talent in the Dorado softball club,” coach Stephanie Nicholson said. “Our goal is always a state championship – at least to make it to the game, if not hold the trophy up.”
Starting pitcher Gabrielle Blevins, who allowed one earned run on eight hits and struck out seven in the complete-game loss Monday, will return. So will fellow sophomore ace Randi Longville.
Another sophomore Carli Campbell, who went 1 for 3 with a single in the fifth inning, had the Dorado’s second-best batting average. Nicholson added that “outstanding” talent is also coming in from junior varsity.
“We had six players with state championship experience, and now that our entire team has it, the goal is always there,” Nicholson said. “They know what it’s like to play in the big game, what the atmosphere is like.”
CDO had its fair share of chances Monday night. The young Dorados just couldn’t get enough against the veteran Nighthawks.
“In the grand scheme of things, we were one of the final two teams and that’s something (the team) needs to take away for next year,” Nettling said. “I hope they learn from it and it fires them up for next year.”