Twin inspirations carry undefeated Cactus softball to Mofford

2018 Cactus graduate Nicole Osteen, left, watched the Cobras' 4A softball second round game against San Tan Poston Butte. Osteen is undergoing treatment for Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome, a rare blood disorder that can lead to kidney failure. [Courtesy Ed Russell Photography/For West Valley Preps]

George Witkowski
For West Valley Preps

Cactus softball is playing for far more than each other or that elusive state title.

The Cobras already were playing this season in memory of booster club president Dan Renyer. Now they play to honor the fight of former teammate and 2018 graduate Nicole Osteen.

In early April, Osteen was diagnosed with Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome, a rare blood disorder which causes kidney failure.

Cactus coach Bartt Underwood said Osteen takes an $18,000 weekly dose, $72,000 a month, to fight the disease. Soliris, that relatively new medication, is FDA approved to inhibit kidney failure and is administered in six weekly doses.

“Sometimes you talk that we need to execute and it’s yeah, yeah (we’ve heard that before),” Underwood said. “I only needed to remind them about LBO (Little Blonde One).”

Osteen – the little blonde one – was on hand for Thursday’s 4A second round game between Cactus and San Tan Poston Butte.

The No. 2 seeded Cobras (29-2) scored a pair of runs in their sixth inning and go on to a 4-3 win over the 23-3  Broncos.

Concentrating on making contact as all that junior third baseman Aubrey Chavez and freshman pitcher Tanya Windle were hoping to accomplish.

After two strikeouts to start the sixth with the game tied at 2, sophomore first baseman Grace Seale singled to right, freshman Janessa Escobar was intentionally walked. Chavez hit an RBI single to right and Windle added a run-scoring single for insurance.

It turned out to be needed as Broncos junior third baseman Natallah Murillo homered off the center field scoreboard with two out in the top of the seventh. Cactus sophomore pitcher McKenna Feringa got a ground out to end things.

Cactus goes on to play No. 6 Tucson Canyon del Oro 5:30 p.m. May 7 at Rose Mofford Complex. The Cobras remain undefeated against 4A foes, with its only losses at tournaments to larger schools.

Chavez was hoping to make her point after Poston Butte appeared to take her lightly.

“The thing that I thought was that I took offense, and had confidence,” Chavez said. “I thought and said ‘please Dan (Renyer) help me out.’ And I knew I had to do something for my team. ”

Renyer passed away in December 2018.

Windle’s hit went as she hoped.

“I was thinking ‘hit a hard ground ball’ and I just did it for my team,’” Windle said.

Windle said she was pleased to get a hit off senior pitcher Lindsay Lopez, who is bound for Arizona State University.

“She’s a pretty good pitcher, and throughout the game I tried to get her pitch down, and figured her out,” she said.

Underwood knew his team had a job to do, and they accomplished it, despite leaving 10 runners on base.

Poston Butte opened the scoring with a solo home run Murillo in the first inning, and added another run on a ground out in the third.

Cactus cut the deficit in half when junior Kaylin Leyvas singled home a run. Senior shortstop Alynah Torres hit the game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the fourth.

To help the Osteen family, donate to her GoFundMe campaign at

Aubrey Chavez drives in go ahead run May 2 in Cactus’ 4-3 second round win against Poston Butte. [Courtesy Ed Russell/For West Valley Preps}

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