DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Awards come pouring in for Xavier lacrosse

 After starting the season 0-3, Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team recently wrapped up a rags to riches finish with a 9-7 record, and the Gators had several players named on the Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association’s postseason honor lists.

(Photo illustrations courtesy of Arizona Girls Lacrosse Association).

The Gators had three players on the AGLA Division II All-State team – junior attacker Keilani Hong, sophomore midfielder McKenna Boyer and senior goalkeeper Ann Obiesie.

Xavier Prep lacrosse coach Diana Oduho, right, is happy with her team's success this season, which includes postseason awards by players, from left, Ann Obiesie, Peyton Bryant, McKenna Boyer, Joan Walton, Gigi Riviere, Marlee McCloskey and Keilani Hong. (Photo courtesy of Diana Oduho).

Those three also were named to the AGLA’s Division II All-Star team, along with junior attacker Gigi Riviere, sophomore midfielder Marlee McCloskey, junior midfielder Joan Walton and junior defender Peyton Bryant.

Hong was named the D-II Attacker of the Year and Obiesie was named the D-II Goalie of the Year.

Coached by Diana Oduho, Xavier also received the Honor of the Game award for teams.

Monday, May 16, 2022

XCP track and field finishes 11th in state meet

 Xavier Prep’s track and field team finished in 11th place in the Division I state meet on Saturday (May 14) at Mesa Community College.

The Gators scored 26 ½ points and stood behind state champion Gilbert Perry (87), Chandler High (74), Queen Creek (70), Phoenix Pinnacle (54 ½), Scottsdale Chaparral (37), Phoenix Desert Vista (37), Chandler Basha (36), Chandler Hamilton (31), Tempe Corona del Sol (29) and Surprise Shadow Ridge (28).

The meet lasted three days – May 7, May 11 and Saturday. Some finals events, primarily in the field events, were held earlier in the week, while Saturday’s finals feature mainly running events.

Freshman Marley Stoller had a big day in the final day, participating in a pair of top relay finishes as well as a sixth-place finish in the 400-meter dash.

The 4x100-meter relay team was sixth in a time of 49.15. The Xavier runners were Maya Ofori, Cierra Gonzalez, Stoller and Madigan Moran.

In the 400, Stoller had a time of 58.12.

And in the 4x400-meter relay, Xavier was sixth at 4:01.04. The Xavier runners were Mackenzie Lopez, Bella Gomez, Julianne Veloria and Stoller.

Earlier in the week, the Gators’ Avery Allen was second in the pole vault and Cierra Gonzalez was fifth in the high jump and sixth in the long jump.

Congratulations to all of these fine athletes and to head coach Dave Van Sickle and his group of assistant coaches.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Gators won't be denied as they win 2nd title in a row

 Simply undeniable.

For the second straight season, Xavier Prep’s Gators proved they are the best softball team in Arizona, capturing the 6A Conference championship on Saturday night (May 14) at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium 13-0 over Chandler Hamilton in a game that was stopped after five innings due to the “10-run rule.’’

Xavier’s 10-0 win over Mesa Red Mountain for the first title in school history in 2021 also ended early with the 10-run differential. That game was at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium.

Brad Downes, who also coached the 2021 Gators, said he and his assistant coaches – Deryk Sexton and Tom Sahhar – were proud of the players.

“What we did with our seniors this year and our seniors from last year put this team on the map,’’ said Downes, who was sprayed with water by a player or two.

“We’re a different team than the one last year. When we started, there were some things that were new. But we also knew that if we worked hard, this (another state title) was a strong possibility.’’

Xavier put their fingerprints all over the 6A state softball championship trophy (Photos by Don Ketchum).

This year’s seniors played a pivotal role throughout the season. They were pitcher Riley Flynn, shortstop Bridget Donahey, infielder Meghan Schouten, first baseman-pitcher Emma Petersen and outfielder Elliot Smith.

The top effort against Hamilton was turned in by Flynn. She narrowly missed throwing her second no-hitter in the tournament, but Hamilton’s Liv Losorto smashed a drive off the ground and then Flynn’s glove, and by the time Flynn recovered, the throw to first was too late.

Flynn, a four-year player, finished with a 21-3 record and 215 strikeouts to go with last season’s 16-2 record and 178 strikeouts.

This season, she also hit .418 with 22 RBIs and four home runs, and had two hits against Hamilton. The first was a bunt single in a five-run first inning and the second was a double when she led off a second straight five-run inning in the second. The ball went over the third baseman’s head and down the left-field line.

So whoever chooses the Player of the Year need look no farther than Flynn’s doorstep.

She is not worried about anything like that right now. She wants to take all the emotion in, including the support from a big gathering of vocal Xavier fans sitting behind the Gators’ third-base dugout.

“That first championship in Tucson was so fun, at least for me, but this one is very special, too,’’ Flynn said.

Asked which pitch or pitches were working for her on this night, Flynn said, “I was spinning the ball pretty well, hitting my spots.’’

Gators signify their No. 1 spot in the state.

Saturday’s win, the fourth of the season over Hamilton, capped a big day for Flynn and the seniors. They also walked down the aisle in the school’s graduation ceremony on Saturday morning in Phoenix.

“I think most of us got up early, but we’ve done a lot of that the last four years,’’ said Flynn, who received the game ball from her coaches and teammates afterward. “The ceremony was great and then we started thinking about softball again. We knew what we wanted to do, what we needed to do.’’

Xavier had 10 hits on the night and got help from seven walks and a pair of Hamilton errors.

Schouten was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and scored three runs, Petersen had two hits and drove in a run, junior second baseman Lauren Putz had a double and a pair of RBIs, and freshman catcher Riley McKeever had a hit, a pair of RBIs and drew two of the team’s seven walks. Putz and Donahey also had a pair of walks.

In the second inning, Putz fouled a pitch off a lower leg/ankle and sat on the ground briefly as Xavier athletic trainer Laurie White tended to her. After a few minutes, Putz stood up and remained in the game.

Athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor provided well wishes to the team afterward and said how proud everyone was of the team, including a number of former XCP graduates who were on hand.

Winsor also took a phone call from Xavier President Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, and the team greeted her with loud cheers. The players also posed for numerous photos, some including the state title trophy.

Next on the Xavier agenda this summer will be the addition of new artificial turf at Petznick Field, which is home for softball, soccer and lacrosse.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Gators to meet Hamilton in final softball challenge

 Xavier Prep’s softball team knows Chandler Hamilton about as well as anyone possibly can, and vice versa, after having played three times during the season.

So, hey, let’s get to it.

The fourth chapter will unfold on Saturday night (April 14) at 8 p.m. at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium in the 6A Conference state championship game. Fourth-seeded Xavier (23-5) won all three, by 12-0, 8-2 and 4-3 scores, the last going eight innings in the first round of the state tournament on April 30. Hamilton (23-12) is seeded No. 13.

Xavier won the first state title in the school’s history last season, over Mesa Red Mountain. Hamilton won back-to-back crowns in 2016 and 2017.

Xavier has won eight straight games, while Hamilton is 5-0 since that first-round setback to the Gators.

Xavier’s top two players are seniors, pitcher Riley Flynn and shortstop Bridget Donahey.

Flynn earned her 20th win of the season in an 8-6 semifinal win over Queen Creek on Wednesday (May 11). She also has four home runs with 25 hits and 22 RBIs.

She was named this week as the’s Sports Athlete of the Week for May 12 after her efforts in the circle during the tournament. She is graduating on Saturday and will go to Harvard starting this fall.

Donahey responded with a key hit against Queen Creek, a two-run home run that highlighted a three-run Xavier rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. She has 14 homers and 46 RBIS and 27 extra-base hits. Donahey also will graduate Saturday and will attend Northwestern.

Hamilton has two pitchers who can get the job done – senior Allison Weyandt and junior Sophia Tassinari. And sophomore infielder Kate Vance is the team’s top hitter with 16 homers and 39 RBIs.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

XCP's Allen 2nd in state pole vault event

 The Division I track and field state championship meet rolled on Wednesday (May 11) at Mesa Community College with final results in most of the field events and more preliminaries in the running events.

Xavier athletes had some strong finishers in the field events.

They included senior Avery Allen, second in the pole vault at 11 feet, 6 inches, 6 inches behind event winner Ena McMahon of Tempe Corona del Sol. Also, senior Cierra Gonzalez was sixth in the long jump at 18 feet.

In the shot put finals, senior Elena Soderstrom was 35th at 30-04 ¼ and senior Ellie Higgins was 37th in the javelin at 87-04.

There was one final running event, the 3,200-meter run.

Xavier junior Reece Brown was 18th at 11:32.03, followed by senior Hannah Wheeling, 22nd at 11:40.73, and junior Nora Hinkle, 43rd at 12:15.31.

There were a number of preliminaries in the running events.

Junior Julianne Veloria was 20th in the 100-meter dash at 12.52. She also was 22nd in the 200-meter dash at 26.36, with Gonzalez in 33rd at 26.77 and sophomore Bella Gomez in 39th at 26.96.

In the 400-meter dash, freshman Marley Stoller was 11th at 58.53 and Gomez was 29th at 1:00.89.

Senior Tatum Goforth was 17th in the early rendition of the 800 with a time of 2:19.73.

And in the 300-meter hurdles, sophomore Kaira Burrage was 20th at 48.29 and sophomore Mackenzie Lopez was 51st at 1:11.87.

The third and final day of the state meet will be held on Saturday (May 14) at MCC. All of the action is expected to be in the running events, with the first event starting at approximately 12:30 p.m.

Win over Q Creek gives Gators chance at another title

 Gator, Gator, chomp-chomp!

Xavier Prep’s defending 6A Conference softball title-holder, will be returning to the big game for the second straight year on Saturday night (May 14) at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium in Tempe.

Could that mean it will be Gator, Gator, champ-champ?

We will see.

All systems are go for the fourth-seeded Gators (23-5), who outlasted No. 3 Queen Creek (27-6) 8-6, at the Fiesta Sports Complex in Mesa, eliminating the Bulldogs.

A win by Queen Creek would have forced a rematch with Xavier on Thursday night (May 12), with the winner advancing to the title game.

“I’m glad we don’t have to play them again. They are a good-hitting team,’’ said Xavier coach Brad Downes, whose team will face either Mesa Red Mountain or Chandler Hamilton for the title. Hamilton survived a 12-11, 10-inning marathon on Wednesday night to force Thursday night’s elimination game.

A game against Red Mountain for the title would be a rematch of last season’s game for all the marbles won by the Gators. And a game against Hamilton would be the fourth time those two have played this season, with Xavier winning all three, including the tournament opener.

If you walked up to the Fiesta field, sat down and watched Xavier and Queen Creek without knowing the situation, you might have thought this one was for the championship because of its intensity and all of the twists and turns that go with it.

There were five lead changes in the contest as Xavier pitcher Riley Flynn and her Queen Creek counterpart, Jenae Berry, engaged in a duel in the circle. However, not all duels focus on the scarcity of scoring – sometimes the ones like this one are just as entertaining, if not more so. You know, the last woman standing.

This time, it was Flynn, although not without some anxious moments in the top of the seventh.

In the bottom of the sixth, Xavier had gone from a 6-5 deficit to an 8-6 lead, thanks to a leadoff triple by sophomore second baseman Lauren Putz, a titanic two-run homer by -- who else? – senior shortstop Bridget Donahey and a sacrifice fly by sophomore outfielder Tabitha VonKolen.

Flynn strode out to the circle in the top of the seventh, hoping to get through one last inning.

She walked the leadoff hitter, who advanced to third on a one-out infield hit. The next batter was retired on a high popup to Donahey and Flynn got the one she needed the most on a swinging strikeout, her eighth of the game, and earned her 20th victory of the season.

“In a game like this, if you keep even-keeled, not let the moment get too big, you can come out of it,’’ Downes said.

Both pitchers had to deal with a very tight strike zone.

Downes said that Flynn was able to survive with her tough mental approach .

The coach was happy about the contributions of VonKolen, who bunts (sacrifice) much of the time but switched up and hit a leadoff triple in the fifth, although she remained stranded.

He also gave props to freshman catcher Riley McKeever for her run-scoring, opposite-field single to left field to give the Gators a temporary 2-1 lead in the second as well as her defensive work behind the plate that included helping to keep Flynn on track.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

State track & field meet continues this week

 The Division I track and field state meet had its first day of competition on Saturday (May 7) at Mesa Community College, with various preliminaries and a few event finals.

The meet will continue on Wednesday (May 11) at MCC and again on Saturday (May 14) at MCC with final events.

In the first day, Xavier Prep had a fifth-place preliminary finish in the 4x100-meter relay (49.22) with sixth-place finishes in the 4x400 relay (4:00.32) and the 4x800 relay (9:46.53).

And Xavier’s lone finals event representative, senior Cierra Gozalez finished fifth in the high jump at 5 feet, 2 inches.