CDO’s Julia Holt: Produces game-winning double with her late dad “looking down on me”

CDO is in the state championship for the first time since the Dorados won the title in 2017 (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Since the day her dad Julius Holt passed away on April 4, Julia said “it’s all been milestones, it feels like” with her experience playing for CDO’s softball program as a senior.

“I had prom. I had my last day of high school (Thursday). I’m graduating. We’re going to state,” she said. “Everything feels much bigger I think now because he’s not here but I know that he’s looking down on me and I know he wants me to do everything 100 percent.

“Everything feels bigger and it feels more important with him looking down on me.”

Included now among those significant moments is Julia’s RBI double that scored Megan Clark from first base in the bottom of the sixth to give CDO an 11-1 mercy-rule victory Thursday over Surprise Paradise Honors in the 4A state semifinal game at Cherry Field.

The victory puts the No. 3 Dorados (33-3) into the championship game against No. 2 Salpointe (32-2) on Monday at 5 p.m. at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Lancers swept the regular season series between the rivals.

Following Julia’s game-winning double against Paradise Honors, her teammates mobbed her in the infield and placed a cowboy hat on her head, symbolic of the player with the most significant play of the game.

“Nobody deserves it more than Julia; she’s probably one of the strongest individuals I know mentally, physically, on the field,” said CDO assistant coach Paul Avila, who filled in for Kelly Fowler as the acting head coach because Fowler was with her daughter Mattie, who is having a baby.

A day after Julius passed way, Julia struck out the side in relief against Sahuaro and earned the victory.

On April 15, a day following her dad’s celebration of life, Julia hit a grand slam and then another home run in CDO’s win over Cholla.

“Her story this year has been tremendous,” Avila said. “I tell her that all of the time. Everything she’s gone through has made her stronger. Every single day.”

Avila said he felt at ease coaching in Fowler’s place although it was a significant playoff game.

It was the first time the Nogales native and CDO graduate filled the role as a head coach. A former standout left-handed pitcher who graduated in 2014, Avila is in his fourth year coaching with the legendary Fowler, who has led the Dorados to three state championships in 2005, 2011 and 2017.

“No pressure at all because I know we have a great group of girls,” said Avila, who went on to pitch for Lourdes College, an NAIA school in Ohio, after graduating from CDO before arm problems forced him to return to Arizona and earn his degree in education. He is now a math teacher at his alma mater.

“We treated it the same way. Nothing changed at all except the music at practice. We put some funk in. Everything was really good. The seniors bought in. They helped us out and made sure nobody slacked off. It was a win for Kelly and the family and CDO.”

This is CDO’s first state championship appearance since 2017, when the Dorados won the title with a 30-4 record led by pitchers Amya Legarra (now a sophomore at Utah State) and Halle Morris (Utah junior), third baseman Ellessa Bonstrom (Utah senior), outfielder Hope Banales (New Mexico State sophomore), first baseman Arianna Acedo (went on to play at Cal State Bakersfield) and catcher Bailey Thompson (graduate transfer at Arizona).

The current group of seniors including Holt, Clark, Lauren Newlin, Faith Valenzuela, Isabella Beauchamp and Naya Campos were in the seventh grade at the time.

Newlin’s first-inning grand slam, her third home run of the season, got the ball rolling against Paradise Honors on Thursday.

Newlin, who is headed to Central Arizona, hit the blast over the center field wall after Campos was hit by a pitch and Zaedi Tagalog and Holt hit singles.

“I told them we’re not going to hold anything back; we’re just going to jump on it,” Avila said. “We’re going to hit the ball, pitch, play defense — everything like that. Right off the bat, Lauren hit the grand slam. We threw the first punch and that just seemed to ease up all the nerves.

“We’re in the position we want to be. Great momentum going into Monday.”

CDO rallied for three more runs in the second after Beauchamp led off with a double. After two outs, Tagalog hit a double to score Beauchamp. Clark, bound for Regis University, followed with her eighth home run of the season.

“Our team has been trying the hardest; this whole season, this is all we’ve wanted to do, go to state,” Clark said. “We know that years prior, it was hard with covid and stuff. We just wanted to give it our best shot and we did.”

After Paradise Honors rallied for a run in the third against CDO starter Amelia Streuber, the freshman retired the side in the fourth. Destanee Nez came in to pitch the last two innings.

Streuber, one of many talented freshman pitchers in Southern Arizona, allowed two hits and four walks with eight strikeouts in her four innings.

Valenzuela’s RBI single was part of a two-run rally in the third for CDO.

The Dorados added a run in the fifth on freshman Taya Kelly’s RBI single and Holt supplied the heroics in the sixth with her game-winning double.

She will play against Salpointe, the school where she began her career, in the state championship game.

“I’ve been prepping since I was a freshman to go and do this and I’m extremely excited,” Julia said. “I can not wait. It’s everything I’ve worked for so I’m so excited.”


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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