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 5, 2015

Big-time HR helps Gators avoid disaster

The unthinkable almost happened to Xavier Prep’s softball team on Tuesday (May 5).
Not once, but twice.
The Gators trailed 1-0 and had just one hit through five innings of their Division I state tournament game against visiting Mesa Desert Ridge at Petznick Field. Xavier was seeded third, Desert Ridge 19th.
This was the same Desert Ridge, mind you, that Xavier had defeated 11-1 in a five-inning, 10-run-rule game in March.
Only two more innings and the Gators would be eliminated. The first two rounds are single elimination before the tournament switches to double elimination.
But Xavier turned things around in the bottom of the sixth, scoring three times for a 3-1 lead. Amanda Preach hit a one-out triple down the right-field line and Sam Sydenham drove her home on an infield grounder. Emily Richards and Caitlyn Dickman produced singles. Richards scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Annamarie Hartman and courtesy runner Taylor Ford scored on a wild pitch.
To its credit, Desert Ridge did not give up and came back to tie it with two runs in the top of the seventh. The Jaguars had regained the momentum and Xavier again was in danger of elimination.
Preach took care of that.
After Becky Ducar reached first on a two-out walk in the bottom of the seventh, the left-handed-hitting Preach absolutely crushed the ball to right field. It sailed over the portable fence, clanged into the permanent metal bleachers used for soccer and lacrosse, came back to hit the top of the portable fence and then back onto the field for a 5-3 victory.
The Gators mobbed Preach as she crossed the plate, relieved that they can move on to the double-elimination portion of the tournament. XCP (24-6) is expected to play rival sixth-seeded Phoenix Horizon in the next round on Thursday night (May 7) at 7:30 at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in north-central Phoenix. XCP and Horizon split their two-game regular-season series.
Preach was asked if the Desert Ridge pitcher, left-hander Bailey Klitzke, attempted to adjust when facing Preach again after giving up the earlier triple.
“No, she was coming inside. She did that the whole game,’’ said Preach, who acknowledged that the shot might have been the hardest ball she has ever hit.
She said she and her teammates weren’t too worried after Desert Ridge took the early lead and then came back to tie it in the seventh.
“We just go out there and battle. We never stop battling,’’ Preach said.
Said Xavier coach Bobby Pena: “I knew Amanda was going to hit the ball hard somewhere.’’
Dickman battled her way through the game as Xavier’s pitcher.
She scattered seven hits. Xavier collected five hits.
Xavier still trailed 1-0 in the top of the sixth as Desert Ridge threatened to increase its lead.
Dickman gave up a leadoff single, then saw the Jaguars load the bases on a fielder’s choice grounder and a couple of base hits. Dickman managed to escape as Desert Ridge grounded into an inning-ending double play.

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