Canyon del Oro jumped out to an early six-run lead over host Sahuaro on Monday afternoon, but the Dorados had to battle until the end to hold on for a 6-3 win in a clash of two of the top softball teams in Division II.
Down to their final out, the Cougars put runners on first and second and had clean-up hitter Brooklyn Beardshear representing the tying run at the plate.
Beardshear pushed CDO's ace Alexis Alfonso to a full count, but she struck out looking to end the game and keep the second-ranked Dorados undefeated in nontournament games.
"It was pretty nerve-racking, but I just had to go through, pitch my hardest and get the 'W' for my team," Alfonso said about the seventh and final inning.
With the win over third-ranked Sahuaro, the two-time defending state champion Dorados could move into the No. 1 spot when the rankings are updated today.
CDO coach Stephanie Nicholson was happy with the way her team started out, but she also hopes the late push by Sahuaro serves as a lesson to not let down.
"We need to, throughout the rest of the season, put it to teams for the whole entire seven innings, instead of the first three," Nicholson said.
"You can't give good teams a glimmer of hope."
Junior catcher Samantha Nettling sparked the Dorados to life with two outs in the top of the second inning with a two-run single just inside the right-field line.
One batter later, CDO went up 4-0 after Dominique Gonzalez hit a two-run double to the right-center gap.
Gonzalez scored one batter later on a double to left field by Makenzie Sullivan, who advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a blooper to left field by Heather Knight.
"I knew I had (Gonzalez and Sullivan) coming up behind me, so I was trying to get a little spark going and it worked," said Nettling, who played through a sinus infection.
"A little poke is sometimes all you need."
CDO (17-3) sent 10 batters to the plate and registered six hits in the second inning alone. But the Dorados only got one more hit the rest of the game, while the Cougars had seven hits beyond that point.
Sahuaro (13-7) scored two runs with the help of two CDO errors in the fourth inning and got a boost defensively from junior pitcher Gina Snyder, who replaced Beardshear.
"She settled the ship and was able to keep us in it," Sahuaro coach Scott Nielson said. "We gave ourselves a chance at the end but just weren't able to come through."
The Cougars had runners on the corners with one out in the fourth, when Knight tagged Savannah Fuller out at third and then threw Amanda Nicholas out at first on a ground ball.
Alfonso, who improved to 8-1, said she struggled with her change-up in the game, so she had to rely more on her screwball. Knight's double play made her jump in excitement.
"It was crucial," Knight said. "They were coming back and getting plays and weren't coming together in the middle infield; they were just hitting holes."
Contact reporter Daniel Gaona at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-7761. On Twitter @DanielGaona13