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, April 9, 2016

Extra hitting helps fuel XCP softball surge

Before recent home games, Xavier Prep softball players put in extra work in the batting cage, taking their swings against head coach Carrie Markham and assistant coach Joe Bogart.
The Gators’ initial goal is to work on something that they and the coaches think needs to be improved. The second part of the hitting drill is to focus on what the opposing pitcher’s repertoire is and attempt to get a “head start’’ before facing her for real.
It is a formula that worked this week, first against Gilbert High on Tuesday (April 5) and again on Friday (April 8) against Gilbert Highland.
Xavier gave up two runs to Highland in the first inning, but got those back plus one in its half of the first. After a 4-4 tie at the end of the third, the Gators started smacking the ball around the diamond to score twice in the fifth and added three more in the sixth to pull away for a 9-4 victory.
Xavier collected 14 hits on the way to improving its record to 13-3. Highland (8-16) lost its seventh straight.
“We started off a bit slow, but we adjusted to their pitcher, started to hit line drives and took the ball up the middle,’’ Markham said.
Even though Highland managed to tie it, Markham said she wasn’t worried about the momentum riding with the Hawks because she has confidence in her hitters.
Freshman pitcher Kylie Rodgers, who had been coming into recent games in the later innings, made her first start, with sophomore catcher Jordan Bassett starting behind the plate.
Markham said there might have been a few nerves involved, but that Rodgers “did really well. It’s good that she can get this experience because we’re going to need her more as the season goes on, put her in different situations.’’
Sophomore third baseman Marie Funes drove in two Xavier runs in the first inning. Rodgers helped herself with a run-scoring single in the second after Bassett led off with a triple.
The Gators’ hitting star of the day was senior Emily Richards, who had four hits, three of them doubles.
Rodgers pitched the first three innings, and Markham brought in senior Caitlyn Dickman in the fourth. Dickman did not give up a run and allowed just three hits the rest of the way.
“Caitlyn was ready to go in. She pitched well,’’ Markham said.
Xavier will have three games next week. The Gators play host to Peoria Centennial on Monday (April 11), travel to face Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Thursday (April 14) and return home for a test against Scottsdale Chaparral on Friday (April 15). The date of the Desert Mountain game was moved after being originally scheduled for Wednesday (April 6).

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