Entering the Division II softball state playoffs, Ironwood Ridge coach Rich Alday had worries about his team’s ability to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
After the Nighthawks’ 17-0 victory against No. 4 Canyon del Oro on Thursday night at Cherry Field, those concerns are all but gone.
I-Ridge (25-7) scored in every inning, including 11 in the fifth, to run-rule the Dorados and advance to the quarterfinal round in the winner’s bracket to play No. 1 Buckeye Verrado at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix.
“It means so much to see the team coming together and working hard to get us back to where we want to go,” senior Erin Rocker said. “Because the seniors, we want it. We want it so bad.
“And we’re not going to stop.”
The fifth-seeded Nighthawks are now two wins away from returning to the state championship game for the third time in four seasons. Yet, I-Ridge was perilously close to being knocked out by Tucson in the prior game, needing 11 innings to escape.
On Thursday, the drama was nearly over after the third.
A solo home run by Rocker in the second and then her two-run single the next inning had I-Ridge up 4-0. With the way pitcher Emily Robinson was throwing, that was more than enough.
“Two hits and a shutout against CDO, that’s pretty good,” Alday said about Robinson.
Ironwood Ridge racked up 16 hits, and got help from six CDO errors. Every Nighthawk had at least one hit and one run in the game, and Rocker had five RBIs.
On the other side, only three Dorados (24-7) even reached base against Robinson.
“Emily is on fire,” Rocker said. “She is one of the best pitchers in the state, hands down.”
The loss snapped a 17-game winning streak for CDO, but not its playoff hopes. The Dorados move down to the losers bracket where they will play No. 11 Phoenix Greenway at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Rose Mofford.
“We have a couple days of practice we have to work on it and make sure that we’re coming through this losers bracket full force with defense, pitching and offense working on all cylinders,” CDO coach Stephanie Nicholson said.