PHOENIX — The sun has set on the 2023 softball season for the No. 5 Canyon del Oro Dorados following a 4-3 loss Thursday night to Greenway in the 4A semifinals at the Papago Softball Complex.
The Demons (30-3) were able to win it in dramatic fashion with a walk-off RBI to secure a trip to the championship against No. 1 Salpointe (34-1) on Tuesday at Hillenbrand Stadium at 8 p.m.
The game will take place after the 3A state championship game at 5:30 p.m. between No. 2 Empire and No. 1 Sabino.
Following the emotional loss, CDO coach Kelly Fowler gathered the girls and spoke with her team in the outfield one last time. Tears were shed, laughter was had and the girls took the time to cherish the few moments they had left with their team.
“I said my piece and just told them how proud I was, then I just let the girls lead,” Fowler said. “It’s a senior moment. They graduate Tuesday.”
She continued, “It was really sweet, Allee [Noble] said, ‘I’m probably not going to remember this game, but I’m gonna remember this talk.’ I think that kind of says it all in sports. You just play so much but it’s those moments that you have together that you realize you did something special together.”
Fowler knew the game against Greenway was going to be a battle, noting the strength of their pitcher Kaitlyn Terry, who is committed to UCLA.
“She comes right at you with her first pitch, and we knew that,” Fowler said. “We prepared for it, but the girls have not seen that speed ever int their life.”
Greenway wasted no time setting the tone early, taking a 1-0 lead over the Dorados thanks to a sac-fly from Taylor Borup.
CDO, which finished its season 28-9, tried to answer but to no avail, as the next three innings remained scoreless on both sides.
The Demons continued to stretch the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning on an RBI double by Ariel Chandler to make it 2-0 Greenway with two outs.
Following Chandler’s at-bat, senior Sydnee Wendel was pulled from the circle and sophomore Amelia Streuber was sent in. From there, Chandler moved to third base on a wild pitch before freshman Madison Bailey knocked her in on a line drive to center.
Down 3-0 in the top of the fifth, the Dorados finally scored on a bunt by Streuber which sent freshman Braelyn Leiber home. Unfortunately for CDO, it was the lone run scored, as they left runners stranded on base.
Going into the top of the seventh, the Dorados knew it was now or never. On another bunt from Streuber, Leiber scored before Molly Herman stole home to even the score at 3-3 and leave everyone on the edge of their seats.
Greenway delivered the knockout punch, though, in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI double with two outs from Jenna Musselwhite.
While the loss will sting for the Dorados, they’re working to enjoy the small amount of time they have left with the seniors before graduating. Little things like the last bus ride home is something she’ll cherish forever.
“This group loves to sing,” Fowler said. “They karaoke so loud. I’m just gonna tell the bus driver, ‘Hang in there! Let them do it!’ They’re gonna have a great time. I can feel it.”
This season may have come to a close sooner than the team would have liked, but Fowler reflected fondly on the group’s overall growth the entire season long and all of their hard work and dedication.
Fowler also knows there’s a lot to look forward to in the future, too, as her team’s still incredibly young. She knows they have a bright future with a lot of potential, and she hopes this game helps them grow and become better for next year.
“The young kids are scrappy, and this was good for them,” Fowler said. “They saw the fight that you have to have.”