Clutch hit ignites Canyon del Oro burying Cactus in 6th

Cactus sophomore McKenna “Bub” Feringa throws a pitch against Canyon del Oro during a 4A softball playoff game on May 7at Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Two of the state’s most prolific softball offenses squared off in a 4A winners bracket showdown Tuesday at Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix.

Only one received the spark it needed.

No. 6 Tucson Canyon del Oro trailed No. 2 Cactus 3-1 in the top of the fifth inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, sophomore Miia Campos worked the count full, then drove a bases-clearing double to center field.

Then the Dorados erupted for 11 runs in the sixth inning to become only the second Arizona school to defeat Cactus (29-3) by an emphatic 15-3 final in six innings.

“I knew she was going to throw me outside so I kind of kept battling them off until she threw me something down the middle,” Campos said.

Canyon del Oro (20-6) is one win away from the 4A final. It will play the winner of the Thursday night elimination game between Cactus and No. 12 Vista Grande.

The winner of that game would have to beat the Dorados twice at Mofford Saturday to deny the Tucson powerhouse another state finals trip.

“We’re going to do what we normally do at practice. We’re going to work hard on our defense. And we’re excited to go play (Saturday),” Canyon del Oro senior pitcher Halle Morris said.

Only two Cobras, seniors Carson Gambs and Alynah Torres, have been in this situation before. As freshmen in 2016, they lost to Canyon del Oro’s rival Ironwood Ridge and bounced back to reach the state finals.

Cactus coach Bartt Underwood has more experience having to dig out of this type of hole. His 2010 Centennial state champions lost to O’Connor in this round and had to win three games – two against the Eagles – to reach the finals.

“We’ll find out with our backs against the wall. But in 2010 with Centennial, we lost a game. We had to beat them twice on a Thursday night and we did. We ended up winning the state championship,” Underwood said. “My seniors have been to two state title games. It’s not like it’s new. Weird things happen. There’s no excuses. There’s only people not doing what they know they should do – plain and simple. We can’t take that low road, that’s not a champion attitude.”

Right now, though, the state Hall of Fame coach is worried about how his 2019 Cobras responded to their first true on-field adversity this year. The Doroados’ bats came alive late, but they had help.

Junior Amya Legarra started the big inning with a one-out infield single, then junior Sabrina Garcia hit an RBI double to center. Junior Cassie Elliott entered in relief of sophomore Bub Feringa, but junior Raina Molina hit a bad hop RBI single.

Senior Hope Banales drove in another run and the Dorados eighth run walked in with the bases loaded. Freshman Angelica Tello relieved Elliott.

Morris produced a run when her drive to the center field fence was dropped. Freshman Naya Campos cleared the bases on a bad hop triple and the rest was academic.

“I just told the girls that the only thing I’m disappointed in is not that we quit, but it got totally dead silent out there except for one girl,” Underwood said. “I said, ‘You guys say you want to be a champion. Champions don’t respond like that. Champions don’t make excuses. Champions don’t blame the coaches – they don’t blame anybody.’ … You guys are going to question me because I might do things differently than your dad or your club coach would have. You’re looking to point the finger at someone else. Champions look in the mirror and say, ‘I could have played better.”

Cactus took advantage of some Canyon del Oro miscues to build a 3-0 lead in the first. From there, though, Morris did just enough to shut down an offense averaging 12 runs per game.

“They weren’t chasing it, so I had to really spin it in the zone to get a call. I trust my defense and I know it wasn’t great today, but we were able roll up ground balls,” Morris said. “We know we’re going to hit so that really helps me as a pitcher.”

The Cobras missed golden early chances to add to their early lead. Torres led off the second with a ground rule double and moved to third on an error but was stranded there.

Cactus freshman Janessa Escobar advanced to third with one out in the third, but was caught in a rundown between third and home. The other runners advanced to second and third and Torres was intentionally walked, but Morris induced the ground ball to escape.

“We left 12 or 13 runners on I believe, and had nine in scoring position with a 3-0 lead. I know they wouldn’t have quit but if we go up seven, eight or nine maybe they press,” Underwood said. “Then they got a couple hits and it got contagious. Then we dropped a fly ball and had a throwing error. It was kind of like a snowball going downhill.”

Canyon del Oro gained confidence as the game went on and again blew out a higher seed with a big final inning at the plate.

In knocking off No. 3 Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain (33-2) 14-4 in six innings May 2, the Dorados scored six in the sixth

“It was fun, we all were excited and we start hitting, we get each other up,” Campos said.

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