Whether pro or prep, whoever’s having the best time on the field is often winning the most games.
Canyon Del Oro softball coach Amy Swiderski echoes that ideal. And as the Lady Dorado juggernaut steams through a smile-laden postseason ringed by standing-room-only bleacher sections, it’s difficult to disagree.
“They’re still having a lot of fun playing high school softball,” Swiderski said. “There’s nothing better than after playing three months to still be having fun and still enjoying each other.”
Along that fun-filled road toward fulfilling the softball prophecy of a repeat 4A state title, the Lady Dorados amassed a 31-4 record after beating Sabino 7-1 on Monday night, bumping their season’s overall score to 281-72.
While CDO gets much of their publicity from its pitching staff (storied junior Kenzie Fowler has thrown 19 strikeouts during the state tournament’s two games) the Dorados count six freshmen among their roster — and they all produce.
Those efforts shined during Saturday’s opening round five-inning 15-0 shutout against a bewildered-looking Apollo team, when frosh slugger Taylor Watkins whacked a three-run in-the-park homer, during the second inning.
“I was amazed, and it felt really good,” Watkins said. “It kinda got my nerves out, I guess.”
Watkins ranks among the ninth-grade poster kids, hitting .414 with 16 RBIs and only nine strikeouts over 99 at-bats. Though she’s small, Watkins carries an explosive potential that Swiderski loves — even when she’s on the receiving end.
When a botched fourth-inning call brought both coaches to the plate on Monday night, the freshman decided to steal home. The resulting collision landed Swiderski face down on the dirt — before the coach sprung up and flexed for CDO’s rowdy fans.
“Taylor is such an aggressive kid, and she didn’t want to risk the ball being dead or in play,” Swiderski said. “Unfortunately for her the ball was dead, and unfortunately for me I got taken out by a 90-pound kid.”
Offensive vigor takes the pressure off pitchers — even those like Fowler, who bat .459 with five homers themselves.
To Fowler — who’s thrown four no-hitters, 12 shutouts, and one perfect game on the season — statistics carry little weight. All that matters is whether the game lands in the “W” column, despite her 72.9 strike percentage.
“It doesn’t matter to me. A win’s a win to me,” Fowler said. “Shutting (Apollo) out, that’s a big deal for the first round, but a no-hitter’s not a big deal to me.
Combined, those seemingly breezy attitudes might not appear to add up to a team that’s currently ranked fifth in the nation on the USATODAY/NFCA polls. But all work and no play makes Jane a dull girl. To that, the girls muddy their hands after each game with “victory” chocolate chip cookies, fresh baked by Fowler’s grandmother.
Swiderski’s not about to change anything at this point.
“They’re doing something right, they’re where they are right now,” Swiderski said. “We’ve got to continue trusting them and having them trust themselves.”
Falcons snare fourth
While the Lady Dorados continue to work their magic, Catalina Foothills boys tennis has rested its argument for dominance, adding its fourth consecutive 4A-I team trophy to the display case last Tuesday.
After the Falcons’ No. 1 Tom Wolff called out of the lineup sick with a throat infection, senior Tyler Campbell stepped up into the top slot.
Still, with the doubles contests already in Foothills’ hands, Campbell didn’t need to finish his sets to leave his prep days behind with an on-court title sweep.
“It’s pretty much the best achievement along sports lines in high school,” Campbell said.
Senior Sam Sufi played No. 2 for the day, winning both his singles matches 6-1.
“It’s awesome — I mean four in a row,” Sufi said. “That’s the way to end it.”
Sufi dropped one of the doubles matches, which Foothills coach Robb Salant said dragged a bit, though the Falcons won them 2-1 overall.
“After that, it was like any other match,” Salant laughed. “It went pretty quick!”
Those other games Salant spoke of were pretty much all of them. During 2008, Catalina Foothills’ boys’ tennis squad kicked down nets toward a 178-2 overall match record this year, according to the coach.
The 5-1 win over Scottsdale Chaparral came with its own share of controversy as well.
With Wolff out of the lineup, Salant said Chaparral juggled its lineup to capitalize on a perceived deficit, stacking their No. 3 player against the Falcons’ No. 6 Ravi Ram.
Ram won the first match 6-4 before victory rang out halfway through his second round.
“This year I was practicing a lot more than I have before,” Ram said. “So, it was good to see that some of the work I’ve been putting in is producing some dividends now.”
The ever-verbal Salant avoided verbosity over Chaparral’s creativity in the matchups during the afternoon, but later compared the effort to an act of desperation.
“They knew they couldn’t beat us straight-up, so they goosed around their lineup and it ended up making them look even worse,” Salant said. “It was so far off it was laughable.”