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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

State-flavored softball victory boosts Gators

Xavier has had a competitive softball rivalry with Phoenix Horizon over the years, and Thursday’s (April 16) encounter at Petznick Field was no different.
The game featured plenty of hitting, plenty of plays – “a state-tournament feel,’’ according to Xavier coach Bobby Pena.
There were several lead changes and top-ranked Xavier ( broke a 6-6 tie with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and held on for a 9-6 victory over the fourth-ranked Huskies.
It was the Gators’ second win in as many days, and the Gators can make it three on Friday night (April 17) when they play a home game against Mesa Dobson. First pitch is at 7 p.m. Xavier can earn its 20th win of the season – it is 19-4. Horizon dropped to 18-7.
“We’ve been working a lot on our hitting, working on specific things (vs. Horizon). We had a visual plan,’’ Pena said. “Hitting is about making positive adjustments.’’
Horizon ace Tamara “T’’ Statman is in her fourth year on the varsity, and many of the Gators have played with or against her in club ball.
Xavier scored twice in the first and picked up two more in the second. Statman brought the Huskies closer with a two-run, opposite-field home run to left in the third. Some actually thought the ball had bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double, but the umpires allowed Statman to jog around the bases.
Horizon came back for a 5-4 lead with three runs in the fifth, Xavier went up 6-5 with two in its half of the fifth and Horizon tied it at 6 with a run in the top of the sixth.
Gators third baseman Sam Sydenham had a tough half inning on defense in the sixth. The Huskies’ leadoff hitter smashed a ball directly at Sydenham, who reacted a split second too late when blinded by the afternoon sun, and the ball went into left field.
Sydenham booted the ball hit to her by the next batter, and Statman later came to the plate with one out and hit the first pitch from reliever Caitlyn Dickman into right field for a run-scoring single. Dickman and starter Emily Richards combined their efforts in the circle.
In the sixth, Xavier’s first batter, center fielder Megan Donahey, lit the match as she has all season.
The left-handed hitter showed bunt on the first pitch from Statman, then deposited a ball down the right-field line for a double. With one out, Amanda Preach gave Xavier a 7-6 lead with a triple to the right-field corner.
Sydenham responded with a shot at the Horizon third baseman, the same type of play that Sydenham had in the top of the inning. The sun allowed the ball to fly past the third baseman’s head and into left field, allowing Preach to score. Annamarie Hartman drove in the final XCP run with a single.
Sydenham also had a hit in the fifth inning and went to second when the left fielder misplayed the ball. Sydenham said it was good to make solid contact in her last two at-bats.
“I think we were more anxious because we have played against Tamara many times, but we know if we stay patient, we will have our chance to hit,’’ Sydenham said.
“This felt like a playoff game, but we are focused and we fight through things. We’re all friends and we have great team chemistry.’’

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