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Canyon del Oro (24-7) has made a habit of mounting comeback after comeback to help them secure a high spot in the Division II playoffs this year but that “will to win” proved elusive Thursday night against Ironwood Ridge (25-7).
A lead-off double from University of Arizona bound Merilee Miller led to Ironwood Ridge’s first score after Skyler Bracety knocked her in with two outs. The Nighthawks left two runners on base in the opening inning and it looked like the failed opportunity to add more runs on CDO would hurt them after Carli Campbell singled to start the bottom of the first.
The Dorados followed Campbell’s hit with three straight line drives off of Emily Robinson but each drive turned into an out with the perfect defensive placement on the left side of the field.
That sequence of events helped set the tone for Robinson and it turned out to be the last real opportunity for CDO.
“After the first inning I felt comfortable to just go out there and throw knowing I had the defense behind me especially in the outfield,” said Robinson. “They were amazing and it’s always easier to throw when your team is giving you runs to work with.
Runs? Try 17.
While Robinson held CDO to two hits and a walk, Ironwood Ridge belted out 16 hits, resulting in seven earned runs and 17 total.
Erin Rocker came up with her third homerun of the post season and finished the game 3-3 with four RBIs and a walk. At some point, defenses might consider intentionally walking her but that wouldn’t have made a difference with every batter hitting the ball.
“They gave me the same pitch again and I was ready to go from there,” explained Rocker. “We were all hitting so it didn’t matter who was coming up. To be honest, this all started yesterday in practice. We were all ready. We wanted it.”
Lexi Adelberg hit a two-run shot in the fourth to put Ironwood Ridge up 6-0 but even then CDO was still in the game considering they had battled back from a 5-1 deficit against Sunnyside in the first round to win that game 8-6 in a “do-or-die” situation.
Randi Longville gave way to Gabi Blevins and Ironwood Ridge put up 11 runs in the top of the fifth to put the game out of reach. Four errors worked against Blevins and she was charged with just one earned run in the inning with the Nighthawks going up to the plate 16 times in the inning.
Taking advantage of what your opponents give you is part of the game and Ironwood Ridge continued to put the ball in play batter after batter.
“We played really well,” said head coach Rich Alday. “The Tucson game taught us we could comeback and play again. We built part of our chemistry in that game and we are doing the little things well. We are getting the key base hits and doing what we always talk about.”
Besides Bracety, Adelberg and Rocker, Miller went 3-5; Reina Bondi went 2-5; Robyn Porter went 2-4; Lexi Orth went 2-4; Alex Rapp had a double and a sacrifice and Loriann Olson came up with a hit.
Arianna Acedo provided CDO’s other hit in the bottom of the fifth.
This was the fourth time CDO and Ironwood Ridge have played each other in a playoff game held at Cherry Field and it puts the Nighthawks up three games to one although each team has knocked each other out of the playoffs once each.
Thursday’s win kept Ironwood Ridge in the winner’s bracket in the double-elimination phase where they will play against top seed Verrado on Monday night at the Rose Mofford Complex in central Phoenix.
CDO fell into the elimination bracket where they will face No. 8 Kellis on Saturday at Rose Mofford. Depending on how the games work out, there may be one more game held at Cherry Field with four of the remaining teams located in Southern Arizona. The semifinals and final will have to be played at Rose Mofford.
No. 14 Marana is the hottest team in the playoffs after they beat No. 11 Greenway to stay up with Ironwood Ridge while No. 2 Cienega suffered an upset to get sent down with CDO.
Cherry Field Playoff Games
2014: Ironwood Ridge sent CDO to the elimination bracket (17-0)
2013: Ironwood Ridge knocked CDO out of the playoffs (4-0)
2012: Ironwood Ridge sent CDO to the elimination bracket (9-8)
2012: CDO knocked Ironwood Ridge out of the playoffs (11-6)
Double Elimination, Thursday, May 8
No. 2 Cienega lost to No. 7 Cactus, 2-1
No. 5 Ironwood Ridge beat No. 4 Canyon del Oro, 17-0 (5)
No. 14 Marana beat No. 11 Greenway, 4-0
Elimination Bracket: Saturday, May 10 (11:30 am)
No. 2 Cienega vs. No. 11 Greenway, Rose Mofford Complex
No. 4 Canyon del Oro vs. No. 8 Kellis, Rose Mofford Complex
Winner’s Bracket: Monday, May 12 (6:30 pm)
No. 5 Ironwood Ridge vs. No. 1 Verrado, Rose Mofford Complex
No. 14 Marana vs. No. 7 Cactus, Rose Mofford Complex
Second Round: Friday, May 9 at Rose Mofford Complex
No. 6 Tanque Verde vs. No. 11 River Valley, 8 pm
No. 7 Empire vs. No. 23 Bourgade Catholic, 8 pm
No. 14 Benson vs. No. 3 Show Low, 8 pm
No. 15 Nogales vs. No. 2 Winslow, 8 pm
No. 20 Thatcher vs. No. 4 Snowflake, 6 pm
Second Round: Friday, May 9 at Rose Mofford Complex
No. 2 San Manuel vs. No. 18 St. Gregory, 6 pm
No. 6 St. David vs. No. 22 Bagdad, 4 pm
No. 7 Desert Christian vs. No. 23 Hayden, 6 pm
No. 8 Valley Union vs. No. 9 Valley Christian, 4 pm
No. 12 Bisbee vs. 5 Superior, 4 pm
No. 14 Pusch Ridge vs. No. 3 Veritas Prep, 4 pm
Andy Morales has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on the pages of the Vail Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com