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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Gator softball returns from break, stops Gilbert

There are times when a week’s break can throw a team out of rhythm. At other times, teams come out and don’t lose a step.
Xavier Prep’s softball team fit into the latter category, as evidenced by the Gators’ 6-2 victory over visiting Gilbert High on Tuesday (April 5).
“It’s good to get back into it, get rolling for the second half (of the season),’’ said XCP coach Carrie Markham.
Xavier had a little bit of everything. It got solid pitching from Emily Richards and Kylie Rodgers, timely hitting from Richards and Becky Ducar and good defense from Rodgers and catcher Melissa Fedorka.
Gilbert also had some stellar defense, from pitcher Hannah Collins and center fielder Amanda Smith.
Richards drove in the Gators’ first run with a second-inning single. After Gilbert tied it at 1 in the top of the third, Xavier responded with three more. Two came on a double by Ducar and the third on another single by Richards.
Gilbert pulled to within 4-2 in the fourth, but the Gators came up with two big insurance runs with two outs in the sixth. Rodgers drove in one with a ground-rule double and Annamarie Hartman brought home the other with a single.
“We are hitting the ball hard, not just in the air,’’ Markham said.
The coach was pleased with the Gators’ pitching effort, particularly by Rodgers, the team’s lone freshman. Richards and Rodgers limited Gilbert to six hits.
“She (Rodgers) was huge for us,’’ Markham said. “You can see her gaining more confidence out there.’’
Rodgers’ development gives Markham another puzzle piece to go with Richards and fellow senior Caitlyn Dickman.
“Sometimes when a pitcher goes through the lineup two or three times, the opponent can get a better idea of what they are trying to do,’’ Markham said. “Having three good pitchers lessens the need for a complete game and gives us more variety with our pitches.’’
Markham said that she is considering putting Rodgers in as the starter for Friday’s (April 8) home game against Gilbert Highland.
Rodgers made a good defensive play in the sixth inning. After surrendering a leadoff single, she speared a line drive and had the presence of mind to throw over to first base for the double play.
And you can start calling Fedorka “Spiderman’’ for her defensive efforts in the second and the fourth. In both cases, she ran into the netting while pursuing foul balls, caught them and clung to the netting. The first time was particularly noteworthy.

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