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.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Gators looking more and more like softball contender

Xavier Prep has won many state championships in various sports over the years, but a softball trophy has eluded the Gators.
So is it too early to say that this could be the year the drought ends?
Probably. But the longer the season goes, it is looking more and more like Xavier has a legitimate chance to be the final team standing when the dust clears in Division I.
The first evidence came earlier this week when Xavier defeated five-time defending champion Mesa Red Mountain on its own field.
Next came the Xavier Invitational tournament over the weekend at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in north Phoenix.
The Gators won four of their five games in the tournament, including an impressive run on Saturday, with a 13-1 win over Peoria Sunrise Mountain and an 8-1 win over Anthem Boulder Creek for the title. Xavier is now 11-4 on the season.
“I told the girls that this week in particular, that in all the years I have been coaching, their hitting attack and their focus have been the best I have seen,’’ Xavier coach Bobby Pena said. “The adjustments they are making in the batter’s box, such as fouling a pitch off and being ready to go, is just tremendous.’’
Leading the way in the win over Boulder Creek was senior right fielder Amanda Preach, the Gators’ cleanup hitter.
She did a nice job clearing the bases with a three-run homer in the first inning, a run-scoring single in the fifth and a two-run single in the sixth inning.
“Amanda has a good eye, good technique with an exceptional swing, and great timing,’’ Pena said. “You put all those things together and you don’t have to swing that hard. You let the pitcher supply the speed, you make contact and the ball just goes.’’
Preach, who will play at Arizona Christian University after she graduates, said she works on her swing every day “and it seems to be getting better and better.’’
The left-handed-hitter might side on the edge of being more of a pull hitter, but tries to go to the opposite field if she can.
She said she knew Saturday’s home run was going out, “because I knew I hit it on the sweet spot (of the bat).’’
Caitlin Dickman pitched the win over Boulder Creek and Emily Richards had a strong effort against Sunrise Mountain, striking out 14.
XCP has two games next week, against Phoenix Desert Vista at Petznick Field on Tuesday (March 17) and Wednesday (March 18) at Mesa Desert Ridge.

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