TEMPE — Although Ironwood Ridge’s Lexi Adelberg hit into a double play and struck out twice in Monday’s Division II state championship game, she still found a way to make a difference — a big difference.
The junior third baseman pranced to her right and snagged a fly ball in foul territory to lock up a 2-1 win over neighborhood rival Canyon del Oro at ASU’s Farrington Softball Stadium, giving the fifth-seeded Nighthawks their first state title in four tries.
The win marked the third straight postseason victory over No. 4 CDO and second this spring, avenging a 6-4 loss in the regular season.
“After we got two outs, we knew we just needed just one more and I wanted the ball to come to me,” Adelberg said. “I was confident the ball was coming to me because I knew I would make the play.
“I’m so happy that we beat CDO and we’re state champions; it doesn’t seem real.”
Adelberg’s grab helped Ironwood Ridge starter Emily Robinson retire the final seven CDO batters she faced and 10 of the last 11, after the Dorados scored their only run of the game in the top of the fourth inning.
“She’s a bulldog,” said I-Ridge first-year coach Rich Alday, former baseball coach at New Mexico and Pima College. “She is really a tough girl. She loves to compete and that’s what she did. She pitched every single playoff game for us.”
Robinson, pitching in the state finals for the second season in a row, struck out four and gave up five hits to cap her stellar career with another win. She said everything went blank once Adelberg secured the final out.
“It didn’t hit me until my catcher attacked me, I guess,” said Robinson, who went 50-9 over four seasons with I-Ridge and carried the trophy off the field.
Robinson was one of three seniors with Nighthawks catcher Robyn Porter and first baseman Erin Rocker playing in their third state title game, so they wanted to make sure they left nothing on the table.
“I had this burning fire in my stomach and told myself we were getting it this time,” Porter said. “I had confidence in my team and myself, I knew we were going to get it done.
“Words cannot describe how happy this makes me.”
The Nighthawks (27-7) stranded eight runners, but it didn’t matter.
Sophomore second baseman Lu Olson brought in the first run of the evening with a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the second inning.
An inning later, Porter put Ironwood Ridge up 2-0 with an RBI single to score sophomore Reina Bondi, who led off the third with a hit to center field.
“This win is monumental, we’ve been working for this for so long,” Porter said. “We all got hits. That was just a timely hit, so I don’t think I did anything different than my team.
“We didn’t come through in every situation, but we just did an excellent job overall.”
CDO catcher Samantha Nettling, a senior, singled to left in the top of the second inning with one out and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by junior shortstop Monique Castillo but ended up stranded there.
Nettling was the first of just three Dorados batters to reach second base, and the only one who scored was center fielder Becca Ziegler after leading off the fourth with a single to right side.
“If we have to lose to anyone, I guess I’m happy for them and happy it’s them,” Nettling said.