Canyon del Oro’s Halle Morris struck out five and gave up two runs on five hits to lead Canyon del Oro to the 4A Conference softball title
There are certain things that are worth the wait – a fine wine or whiskey, an aged cheddar. And if you’re the Tucson Canyon del Oro softball team, a state championship.
For the past three years, Canyon del Oro has made the state playoffs as a favorite to win it all. Three times they’ve come up empty.
Turns out the fourth time’s the real charm.
Led by an offense that hit the ball hard, a pitcher that was nothing short of phenomenal and a defense that was silky smooth, top-seeded Canyon del Oro exorcised those ghosts of playoffs past by claiming the 4A Conference title with a 4-2 win over No. 3 Peoria Sunrise Mountain on Tuesday at Farrington Stadium in Tempe.
“It is great,” Canyon del Oro coach Kelly Fowler said. “We have the eight seniors, and they all played a pivotal role. This was their goal since their freshman year.”
That goal didn’t come without with detours along the way – namely a 30-minute lightning delay during the bottom of the first. But it was that experience from those seniors that helped keep the team loose.
“We’re a pretty loose team,” sophomore pitcher Halle Morris said. “We went and played hacky sack, so it was pretty fun.”
Once the rain let up and the lightning moved off into the distance, that’s when fun and games turned into serious business.
Canyon del Oro (30-4) came out firing, as the first four batters reached base – including Hope Banales, whose triple plated the game’s first run and set the tone for the offense as Canyon del Oro took an early 3-0 lead after the first inning.
“They’re a strong lineup,” Sunrise Mountain coach Jody Pruitt said. “They’re tough to throw to. They were some points where Hanna (Krosky) maybe gave them a little too much credit and didn’t challenge them.”
The big lead only seemed to help Morris. Of course, having a solid defense behind her didn’t hurt. The sophomore hurler allowed just two runs on five hits with five strikeouts. Of the 21 recorded outs, two were caught in the air and one reached the outfield.
“Sunrise Mountain is known for their slappers and their speed,” Fowler said. “We were just going to ride Halle as long as we could through their slappers. We’ve got great defense, and we just rode her out through the whole game.”
Sunrise Mountain (21-4) did finally show some signs of life late as Sydney Bickel doubled with a runner on first to ignite the crowd that made the trek across town. Back-to-back RBI groundouts cut the lead in to 4-2, but the rally died with nobody on base.
“It gave us some confidence,” Pruitt said. “If we replay the game, we had a throwing error in the first and that’s one less run. Then we had a blunder at third, and you take that away. Mistakes came back to haunt us tonight and took the wind out of our sails.”