May 18, 2005 - For the third time in school history, the Canyon Del Oro High School softball team can call itself state champions.
The Dorados earned the honor after beating St. Mary's High School, 2-0, in the Class 5A state softball finals May 13 at Alberta B. Farrington Stadium in Tempe.
After CDO beat Mountain Pointe High School in the quarterfinals a few days earlier, Tanya Groff strolled the field and tunnels of UA's Hillenbrand Stadium wearing a pair of novelty sunglasses with psychedelic swirls on them.
The spectacles worked magic, joked the senior.
But CDO didn't need any help from softball black arts, voodoo or witchcraft in its pursuit of its third state title. The Dorados were able to earn that on their own through talent and teamwork - even if the state finals were held on Friday the 13th.
"It feels like I'm walking on air," said CDO shortstop Courtney Mall, after CDO secured this year's 5A softball crown with a win over St. Mary's on the campus of Arizona State University.
Kristal Curnett had a two RBI single and Dana Alcocer struck out four and allowed five hits as CDO downed St. Mary's in front of a sea of green and yellow shirts in attendance.
The Dorados scored their two runs in the first inning then held off several Knights' rallies to win their third state title in four attempts since 1992. CDO last claimed the 5A as its own in 2001.
After Curnett earned new life on a controversial check swing call that was ruled a ball, the centerfielder promptly lined a base hit up the middle to score the only runs of the game. Timely defensive plays and a little help from the umpires allowed CDO to maintain that lead. In the third inning, for example, CDO escaped harm by getting all three outs at third base.
Before traveling Interstate 10 to reach the finals versus St. Mary's, CDO stayed in Tucson for the early rounds of the playoffs, sending North Canyon, Dobson, Mountain Ridge and Desert Ridge packing by a combined 22-3 run differential. Desert Ridge, in fact, was the only team to score against Alcocer and a solid CDO defense, losing 11-3 to the Dorados in the semifinals at Hillenbrand Stadium May 12.
"We'll enjoy this one forever," said CDO head coach Kelly Fowler, who added that her players need to ingrain the win permanently into their memories.
The Dorados, one of the smallest schools in the state's big school conference and playing in their final season in the Class 5A before moving to 4A next year, finished the year with a 28-3 mark overall, 11-1 in the Southern Region. In the most recent USA Today high school softball national rankings released May 11 CDO was ranked No. 18. Since then, CDO has reeled off five straight wins and claimed the state title.
"For our six seniors it's hard to believe we won't ever play together ever again," said Alcocer.
For the five other seniors - Whitney Braswell, Venessa Cordova, Curnett, Groff and Mall - this year's playoffs may be the last time they play behind a player as dominant as Alcocer.
Alcocer fanned nine batters in the quarterfinals May 11 against Mountain Pointe, carrying a no hitter into the seventh inning. She followed up that performance a day later, on the same field, this time by slugging a homerun out of Hillenbrand, the home of the UA's Wildcats.
The ability to remain calm under pressure is a talent that runs deep into the roots of the Alcocer family tree.
"I just tell her to be smart out there," said Gil Aragon, Alcocer's grandfather after watching the almost mini-version of himself pitch in the championship game. The barrel-chested, battle-tested grandpa said he used to thrive on pressure when he played during his 30-year softball career.
In 1974, his Page's Raiders of Sun City, Ariz. won the world title of the International Softball Congress. In 1992 he was admitted into the ISC's Hall-of-Fame. But fast pitch softball accolades don't stop there. Aragon is also a member of the Arizona Softball and the Arizona Hispanic halls-of-fame.
Time may have caught up with him but Aragon's eye and passion for the sport remain.
After all, how many other fans in attendance could tell that Alcocer's rise ball wasn't effective against St. Mary's and that the senior needed to rely on her sinker to get batters out?
If Alcocer inherited any talent from her grandfather and used it in the playoffs, she won't let on. As far as winning a state title, the senior says that was only possible by working as a team.
"We kept our composure and we stayed calm.
"This is probably the best feeling in the world," said Alcocer, the tears of joy freely flowing from her eyes and no magic glasses any where in sight.