PHOENIX — The No. 5 Canyon del Oro Dorados are returning to the 4A softball semifinals following a 7-2 victory over No. 4 Scottsdale Saguaro at Papago Park in Phoenix on Tuesday afternoon. Thanks to a big second inning and more excitement in the fifth, the Dorados will now prepare to take on No. 2 Phoenix Greenway at Papago Park on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
CDO (28-7) must beat Greenway (28-3) twice on Thursday to advance to the state championship game against either No. 1 Salpointe (33-1) or No. 6 Paradise Honors (26-7-1). The Lancers will play the Panthers on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Amphi. One win and Salpointe reaches the championship game. If the Lancers lose, they’ll face Paradise Honors in a deciding game afterward.
While CDO may have made a run at the state championship last year, coming up short against Salpointe, this is an entirely new team. The Dorados graduated nearly their entire roster, and head coach Kelly Fowler says a majority of her squad is underclassmen.
“We have a very young team,” Fowler said. “Last year, we graduated an entire team. So these kids want to be scrappy and fight. It’s really fun for them.”
While they may be underclassmen, they’re already playing like veterans. Fowler attributes much of their postseason success to the level of competition they see on a daily basis in Southern Arizona.
“I am so proud of Tucson softball,” Fowler said, as she discussed all of the Southern Arizona teams still in the playoffs.
“Tucson softball is underrated, and I’m so proud to be from Tucson.”
In the top of the second, it was an underclassmen who got things going for the Dorados to set the tone early. Sophomore Molly Herman had a lead-off single, followed up with a walk for senior Sydnee Wendel. Later in the inning, junior Malayah Rentaria hit a bomb over the fence for a three-run home run, putting the Dorados up 3-0 in the top of the second.
“I knew if we had runners on, she wasn’t going to throw me a first-pitch strike,” Rentaria said. “The second one I knew if it was up, I was going. When I saw it up, I got excited.”
“What was crazy was it was a carbon copy of what happened last week,” Fowler said. “I was like, ‘How does this happen?’ The same exact situation, the same exact kid when she goes up. How does that happen?”
Saguaro was finally able to get the bats going in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Sabercats had two runs to cut the lead to 3-2, but the Dorados wouldn’t allow it to be close for long. In the top of the fifth inning, Wendel had an RBI single to extend the lead to 4-2 and add some cushion to the game.
CDO wanted more, though, and in the top of the sixth inning, it was able to turn up the heat.
Senior Zaedi Tagalog had an RBI single to push the lead to 5-2. Senior Allee Noble followed it up with another RBI before Destanee Nez had an RBI single to extend the lead to 7-2.
Saguaro attempted to rally, but CDO refused to give anything up, working their way to the win.
Fowler discussed the strength of CDO’s pitching by sophomore Amelia Streuber, who has been solid for the Dorados.
“[Streuber’s] very young, but she throws very well,” Fowler said. “I just keep telling her, ‘You’ve gotta do you. If you do what you do, you’ll be fine.'”
The Dorados will now return home for one more practice to prepare for Greenway.
Fowler knows there’s a big challenge standing between her team and a return to the state championship, but she is confident they are ready for the fight.
“The big storyline is [Greenway’s] pitcher is going to UCLA,” Fowler said of Kaitlyn Terry. “She throws gas.”
“We know she’s a UCLA pitcher, but we know that it’s just her,” Rentaria said. “We’re gonna play some small-ball and hope that we get on it.”