No. 4 Camp Verde High School’s softball team saw its 11-game winning streak and bid for a second consecutive berth to a state championship game end at the hands of No. 1 Bourgade Catholic High School, 8-2, Saturday, May 6.
The Cowboys [16-2, 9-1 Central] matched up with an undefeated Golden Eagles team that was more than clinical defensively. On the other hand, Camp Verde errors led to a five-run deficit after five innings.
“We ran into a good team. [Golden Eagle junior pitcher Mallory McDowell] was pitching good and we tried to adjust and the game got away from us on errors,” Cowboys head coach Henry Smith said. “It was a hard fought game and it was a gamble and we asked them to push, we asked them to put pressure on and that’s what they tried to do … Every time it went straight into their glove and they made plays.”
A two-run home run in the top of the second inning by freshman Jacy Finley provided the only score and a temporary lead for the Cowboys. But Bourgade Catholic junior Daisy Hernandez responded in bottom half of the inning with a three-run shot.
Two innings later the Golden Eagles tacked on four more. With two outs and two runners on, McDowell singled home the first. Another single scored the second, and a series of Camp Verde miscues on the same play allowed two more.
The throw to Cowboys third baseman Tyra Smith went high. Junior catcher Jade Oium then tried to catch a baserunner advancing to third, but that throw too was off the mark, giving the Golden Eagles a 7-2 lead.
“It just came down to a couple errors and we gave up a ton of runs on them, so it kind of took us out of the game and took the momentum away,” Smith said.
All of Camp Verde’s comeback efforts in the final three frames were extinguished by double plays. It had success bunting in the quarterfinals the day prior. Senior Kayla Hackett opened the sixth inning with a bunt single before Finley followed with a base hit.
Senior Madison Johnson hit a pop up that dropped in, but Hackett was caught advancing to third. Senior Tiauna Day singled to load the bases, but junior Serenity Garcia hit a line drive that was snagged by diving senior shortstop Briana Soltero to start one of the double plays.
“They made some really, really good plays, plays that normally would have hit the ground, and we made a couple of baserunning errors,” Smith said. “At the end of the day to me it was a sign of them trying to do as much as they can to win the game and it just didn’t come out in our favor today.”
Three straight Bourgade Catholic singles in the bottom of the inning provided the eighth run.
Cowboys senior Amber Dodge singled in her last at bat as a Cowboy in the top of the seventh.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” an emotional Dodge said after the game. “Henry, he’s been my coach for a lot of years, so I really respect him and I’m going to miss playing for him.”
After reaching the Division IV title game a season ago, Camp Verde made another deep run in the playoffs. Smith credited his players’ offseason dedication to lift the program to such success.
“That just gives credit to the hard work that these girls have done for years,” Smith said. “This stuff doesn’t start opening day of the season. This is all product of offseason, they have to work in the offseason and put a ton of work in and get a lot better, and that’s what they did last year.”
The Cowboys lose Hackett, Day, Dodge, Johnson and Amanda Punkoney to graduation, but returns a core of players looking to carry the program along the same path.