The Canyon Del Oro Dorados may have lost the championship game of the Dorado Softball Classic, 5-4, against Ironwood Ridge, but the prospects for the reigning state champions still look bright.
They displayed the ability to remain at elite status during the Dorado softball classic at Marana.
After winning the state title in 2011, and four of the last five years, the Dorados are playing their first year without a Fowler. Mattie Fowler graduated and went to Nebraska, after pitching and hitting CDO to the state title. Older sister Kenzie helped the Dorados to their three previous state titles, and is currently in her third season pitching for the Arizona Wildcats.
Then, there’s coach, and mother, Kelly Fowler, who left after last season’s title run.
There’s still plenty of talent left on board, as the Dorados showed in their run to the softball classic’s title game. In their first three games, they outscored the opposition 36-5.
They opened the tournament on Thursday with wins over Sahuarita,17-1, and Mountain View, 9-2.
On Friday, they took apart Cactus Shadows, 10-2, in the early game. New pitcher Alexis Alfonso gave up a first-inning homerun, but allowed no more earned runs, walked two, fanned four, and gave up only four hits in six innings of work.
Makenzie Sullivan provided some heavy lumber with a homerun and two doubles.
Sullivan said the homerun felt good.
“It was my first of the season,” she said. “It’s good to play this year. We had a great season last year.”
The Dorados lost only once in 2011.
Kayla Bonstrom returns for her senior season. She’s already committed to Stanford.
Last year, she was third on the team in batting average, and second in homeruns.
She also had an excellent season on the mound. She’s valuable either on the mound, or at first base.
Bonstrom opened the game with a single, and came around to score after an error. In the second inning, the Dorados offense erupted.
Sullivan led off the inning with her home run. With two outs, Alexis Aguirre doubled. Bonstrom tripled her home. When her aggressive base running forced a wild throw to third, she scampered home to make it 4-1, CDO.
New coach Stephanie Nicholson is not a stranger to winning and success.
“A lot of expectations come with this job,” Nicholson said. “I’ve been on a lot of successful teams.”
She was an assistant on last year’s squad.
“We’re continuing on the (winning) path. It’s been an easy transition,” she said.
The Dorados have eight seniors, and Nicholson points out that is helping her to guide the team and keep them focused.
The Dorados scored again in the third, as Brianna Dohogne singled, was sacrificed to second, and scored on a double by Sullivan to make it 5-1.
Cactus Shadows matched that run with an unearned run in the third. Two errors occurred in the inning, but that was an aberration by the fundamentally sound Dorados, as they made no other errors in the contest.
Alfonso struck out the side in the fourth, and retired the final nine batters she faced.
“I expect our pitching to be consistent,” Nicholson said. “We’re trying to make every facet better.”
The Dorados, who normally have three solid pitchers, look to feature Alfonso, Bonstrom, and Sabrina Roman on this year’s staff.
With time running down, the Dorados made sure that the game wouldn’t go past the sixth inning.
Leading 7-2 entering the sixth, Sammy Nettling homered on the first pitch thrown by the Cactus Shadows relief pitcher. Sammi Noland followed up with a triple.
Dohogne was hit in the foot, and a ground out plated one run, before Sullivan doubled home Dohogne for the final margin.
“CDO’s always had a target on their back,” Nicholson said. “Every game I want to get them thinking that they’re playing for the championship.”
Saturday’s play was highly competitive for the Dorados.
CDO rallied to beat Pinnacle 12-11, before falling to the Nighthawks, 5-4.
Coach Nicholson doesn’t want the team to play down to its competition, such as when they play against lesser teams.
Being the returning state champions, even if there is no Fowler on the roster, teams will continue looking at CDO as the target as the new season gets under way.