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SOFTBALL: CDO takes over top spot with 5-3 win over Ironwood Ridge

April 26, 2016 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365

Gabi Blevins (Andy Morales/

Already up 1-0 on top-ranked Ironwood Ridge in the bottom of the first, Alexis Kaiser stepped up to the plate in what could only be described as another huge at bat between the two rivals and delivered on a bases-clearing double to give No. 2 Canyon del Oro a 4-0 lead. It was a lead the Dorados would never give up and CDO went on to defeat the Nighthawks 5-3.

The Ironwood Ridge/Canyon del Oro softball rivalry is not only confined by the five miles that separate the two schools, it has become a state-wide and national event. Amazingly, when the dust cleared, and Kaiser was standing alone at second base, word came down that the Dorados had moved up two spots in the MaxPreps national rankings from No. 10 to No. 8.

The win also gave Canyon del Oro (27-1-1) a section title and it should move them into the top seed when the Division II brackets are released on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at The top eight seeds in the state playoffs will receive a first-round bye and will begin play on Tuesday, May 3.

Ironwood Ridge (28-4) should also earn a bye and will also host a second-round game on May 3. CDO defeated Ironwood Ridge twice this year and once last year but the Nighthawks came up big against the Dorados in the 2013 Division II state playoffs not once but twice.

Ironwood Ridge blasted CDO 17-0 in the double-elimination round and then went on to defeat the Dorados 2-1 in the championship game. It was the first title in school history and the first for legendary coach Rich Alday.

The win over CDO was only fitting and it led to the return of longtime Dorado coach Kelly Fowler. Fowler coached the Dorados to a championship in 2005 and then took a break to watch her daughters Kenzie and Mattie win three more at the school. Fowler came back again and coached the Dorados to a championship in 2011 before taking another break to watch her daughters play college ball.

Back for her third trip, Fowler is primed for another championship run as is Alday and Ironwood Ridge. Thankfully, the rivalry itself is only played out between the lines now that Fowler has returned due to the longstanding friendship between Alday and Fowler.

Alday coached baseball at Pima Community College when Fowler’s father Norm Patton was the men’s basketball coach there. Their close friendship helped to remove any of the negative aspects that rivalries usually bring but it is still a heated one, but only on the field.

Mandy Lorenson (8-2) took the circle for Ironwood Ridge and Gabi Blevins (8-0) got the call for CDO. Blevins retired the Nighthawks in order to start things off but Lorenson found some difficulty in the bottom half of the inning and issued a couple of walks to get CDO started.

Even with walks issued to Carli Campbell and Wendy Castro, Lorenson still had two outs but Anya Gonzales singled up the middle to score Campbell. Brenna Griesser reached on a catcher’s interference call to load the bases and then Kaiser stepped up to the plate and delivered on her double to put CDO up 4-0.

“I went up there thinking I had to hit the ball hard to get something going,” Kaiser said. “I had to step up for my team because our goal is always state.”

This Canyon del Oro team doesn’t have a Kenzie Fowler, a Kayla Bonstrom or a Sammy Nettling to singularly “will” the team to a win. No, it appears to be more of a collective belief in the “next man up” as was displayed by the 15 players who made an appearance in the game.

But Ironwood Ridge also shares that belief.

Lorenson has been a rock for the Nighthawks this year but even the best have difficult outings and Kelly Decker took over in the second inning and held CDO scoreless through the fifth inning. Meanwhile, her offense closed the gap to 4-3 in the fifth inning.

Loriann Olson led things off with an infield hit and then Reina Bondi drew a walk. Isabel Pacho singled in Olson and the Nighthawks were in business.

Annika Baez was walked to load the bases and Skylar Bracety came through with a sacrifice fly to cut the lead down to 4-2. Jaiden Reid followed with another sac fly and the score was suddenly down to 4-3.  Blevins picked up a ground ball to end the threat and the senior retired nine of her last ten batters to shut down Ironwood Ridge. CDO added another run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI groundout from Ellessa Bonstrom.

“It was amazing to end with a win against Ironwood Ridge,” Blevins explained. “Having the early lead is always good for a pitcher. It lets you breathe more,” she added.

The loss has given Ironwood Ridge time to refocus on the state playoffs now that the regular season is out of the way.

“We can now focus on getting better,” said senior Kelsey Buechler. “We need to learn from this and forget about it and move on. It is over. We can’t focus on the negative. We need to stay focused and work towards our next goal.”