Monday night (March 9) turned into one of those defining moments for the Xavier softball team.
The odds were against the Gators. They were playing on the road against four-time defending Division I champion Mesa Red Mountain, which had won eight of its first nine games.
The Gators overcame an early 1-0 deficit by scoring four runs in the third inning and held on for a 4-2 victory over the Mountain Lions.
“It’s a big victory for us because it’s against a top contending team,’’ said Gators coach Bobby Pena, whose team was ninth in azcentral.com’s most recent D-I rankings, with Red Mountain first. Xavier is 6-3 entering its home game on Tuesday (March 10) against Phoenix Camelback.
“The main reason for the outcome is that we have been working hard at improving our hitting. We are hitting more line drives. We are dedicated to that. Some of our girls have to adapt, but they are really trying to make it work.
“We have a lot of good players, a lot of good “team’ players, as good as I’ve had here.’’
Xavier scored its runs in the third on infield grounders by Becky Ducar and Amanda Preach, a Red Mountain error and a triple by Sam Sydenham.
That gave junior pitcher Caitlin Dickman a jolt of confidence, and she held Red Mountain to only one more run (sixth inning) the rest of the way. Dickman scattered seven hits.
“She was pitching “up’ earlier and then she started hitting her spots better,’’ Pena said. “She was selling her change-up. The arm speed was the same (as a fastball) but the ball came out slower. They (Red Mountain) were trying to hit according to the arm speed, not so much the ball.’’
Dickman and senior catcher Emily Jordan made sure they had good communication throughout the game.
“We kept the pitches low,’’ Jordan said. “We had to be diligent about it.
“I would talk to her between innings, reminding her about keeping the ball down.’’
Dickman said it was about “throwing my pitch, not worrying as much about them, although they are a good-hitting team. I got a lot of ground balls, and I trust in my defense to make the plays.’’
The ground balls helped Dickman get through the last inning, including a pair of forceouts to the middle infielders.
Dickman admitted she was a bit nervous in the last inning, “but I tried to stay composed. I told myself, “You’ve done this for six innings. All you have is one more inning to go.’ ’’