On April Fool’s Day, the Canyon del Oro softball team came across a broken stick during a game at Sierra Vista Buena. The team mended the stick together with black, green and gold athletic tape and has kept it in the dugout since.
Tuesday afternoon, the host Dorados trailed Ironwood Ridge by two runs heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, so they huddled together, pulled out the club’s self-proclaimed “rally stick” and said a little prayer to the softball gods.
It was just what CDO needed to awaken from its slumber.
Seniors Makenzie Sullivan and Samantha Nettling launched back-to-back homers to spark a five-run inning, and the Dorados (17-6, 6-0) held off the Nighthawks’ last effort for a 6-4 win — CDO’s 10th in a row.
“With the No. 3, 4, 5 hitters coming up, we knew something would happen,” Canyon del Oro coach Stephanie Nicholson said. “Seeing those seniors come up, it’s a fire-starter.”
Coming into the game, the Nighthawks were ranked third in Division II, but senior pitcher Emily Robinson (14-3), knew she’d have her work cut out for her against the No. 4 Dorados.
“They have good hitters,” said Robinson, who surrendered 13 hits and failed to record a strikeout. “I didn’t come out prepared enough, I give them credit. I wasn’t as sharp as I usually am, but I don’t want to take anything from them.”
Robinson, in her fourth season on varsity, is part of a senior group that’s 4-6 against the rival Dorados dating back to the 2010-11 season. She acknowledged the playoff-like atmosphere, but noted it was nothing out of the norm.
“You could feel the tension walking in here,” Robinson said. “It’s always like that, though.”
CDO pitcher Randi
Longville (9-4) struck out nine, all swinging. She walked eight but held the Nighthawks to four hits in the complete game.
Longville, a sophomore, before today had not pitched in that big-game atmosphere. She watched from the dugout last season, learning, preparing for her moment with an even-keel approach.
“I knew I wasn’t going to keep them at zero runs — they have good hitters — so I had some walks,” Longville said. “I would rather keep it off the plate and be safe, than to throw fatties.”
With four regular-season games left for the Nighthawks, who made the state finals last season, first-year coach Rich Alday said his team will need some innings pitched from someone other than Robinson, in order to prepare for the playoffs. He hopes a day off will help I-Ridge recharge.
“We had bases loaded with no outs a couple of times and came away with no runs,” Alday said. “We have to hit the ball on the ground and line drives.”
The Dorados, who have six regular season games left, feel they’re developing at the right time.
“This game was the perfect spot in our season to have,” Longville said. “Perfect. We’re getting over these little humps, and now we’re just rolling from here to put us in a good position for the playoffs.”