The CDO Dorados (24-7) softball team came within one strike last Thursday of going to the state championship game for the fourth straight year.
Holding a 4-3 lead with two outs in the seventh, a wild pitch allowed the tying run to score. Then a run-scoring single plated the game winner, as second-seeded Peoria Sunrise Mountain defeated the Dorados, 5-4.
"It was hard to lose this year," said senior Janelle Christman, who had never been a part of a playoff loss after three state titles.
Sophomore Kayla Bonstrom was asked to go the distance, after Christman had pitched 12 innings in the prior two games.
The Dorados banged out 11 hits, but also left 11 runners on base.
"We just needed to string our hits together to push some more runs across," said CDO coach Kelly Fowler.
According to seeding, the Dorados were actually the underdogs.
"Peoria has a very good pitcher, but we were matched up very well with them."
Tuesday, the Dorados won at home against Cactus Shadows, 2-1.
Christman threw five innings of scoreless relief, and allowed only two hits and a walk to get the win.
Bonstrom started, but was relieved after walking two batters in the third, even though she hadn't allowed a hit.
"Mentally, we needed to give the batters a different look," Christman said. "I'm a little tired, but I wanted to leave nothing on the table for state. We stepped up our game."
The turning point of the game may have occurred with CDO trailing 1-0 in the third.
With the bases loaded and one out, Cactus Shadows' cleanup batter popped up near the outfield grass. The ball was dropped by an infielder, and the infield fly rule was not called. When the runner on third broke late, she was thrown out at the plate. The next batter popped out to end the inning.
The Dorados finally broke through in the fourth inning.
Mattie Fowler walked. Two outs later, Hannah Sullivan doubled her in to tie it 1-1.
"We're a very well-rounded team," Sullivan said. "I was lucky to hit it where I did. We know how to get the job done."
Sullivan and Christman each had two hits in the game.
The winning rally happened in the CDO fifth. With one down, Kayla Henry singled, and then stole second. Bonstrom singled, and Henry scored on an error to make it 2-1.
Cactus Shadows finished with only two hits off the Dorados pitchers.
They may not have won the championship, but on a team with such a high standard of excellence, it's easy to forget the youth on a team with only two seniors. Sullivan, a sophomore, was actually in her first year with CDO. Last year, she went to school in Florida.
The hard-throwing Bonstrom looks to be ready to be the primary pitcher next year, and coach Fowler is extremely proud of the team's hitting.
Kayla Henry hit .494 with 26 steals. Mattie Fowler batted .490 with 51 hits, 17 doubles, 38 runs batted in, and three homers. Val Mendoza batted .451 with four home runs and 37 runs batted in. In addition to her strong pitching, Bonstrom also batted .485 with nine homers and 49 runs batted in. All four will return in 2011.
"We are looking for all of the girls to improve and come back next year," said coach Fowler. "Ready to make another run at the state title."