Well, well, well, look what the wind brought in . . .
A classic softball game!!
Xavier Prep’s Gators, kept off the board for the first five innings by visiting Scottsdale Chaparral, scored once in the sixth, once in the seventh and twice in the eighth after the Firebirds had taken the lead for a 4-3 victory on Friday (April 15) at Petznick Field.
Xavier raised its record to 16-3, while Chaparral fell to 13-12.
The heavy wind blew down most of the portable outfield fences before the game even began. One might expect the score to go up with the wind carrying the ball out to left field, but there were no home runs and the score was normal.
Chaparral held a 2-1 lead entering the bottom of the seventh when the Gators staged a surprising comeback.
Kylie Rodgers led off the inning with a single, but was doubled off first base when Marie Funes lined a shot back at pitcher Maggie Thurston. She gathered the ball against her jersey and threw over to first.
One out to go for the Chaparral win.
Melissa Fedorka singled and Macrina Zachar walked. Annamarie Hartman bounced a single up the middle into center field, and the Chaparral center fielder threw the ball toward home plate. Fedorka had kept sprinting around third base, approached the plate and slid head-first.
The throw might have been a bit high and allowed Fedorka, a catcher, to reach in and touch the plate at about the same time the tag was being made.
Everyone – players and fans alike – held their breath.
The plate umpire signaled safe instead of ruling the final out of the game, angering Chaparral followers and sending joy through the veins of the Gators and their fans. The Chaparral center fielder then saved a run by lunging into the gap in left-center to snag a drive by the Gators’ Megan Donahey.
The Firebirds wasted no time in responding in the top of the eighth. They took the 3-2 lead against Xavier reliever Caitlyn Dickman when a throw from the infield pulled the first baseman off the bag. The two umpires huddled before confirming the original call.
Then it was the Gators’ turn. The start of the bottom of the eighth was delayed when a Chaparral player was going to take a pair of sunglasses out to the left fielder to help against the lowering sun. The left fielder then decided not to use the glasses. It was a decision that would come back to haunt Chaparral.
Becky Ducar was standing at second after a leadoff double. With one out, Emily Richards hit a single to left, but the ball bounced high enough in front of the fielder to allow the sun to momentarily affect her vision. The ball was misplayed, Ducar scored and Richards reached second.
Rodgers, who left the game earlier with a lower-leg injury but returned, hit a single to right, but the ball was not hit hard enough to bring Richards in. Richards was held at third, giving Funes a chance.
Funes followed with a single to left, just over the head of the third baseman, and the comeback was complete.
The Gators jumped for joy and Dickman even did a cartwheel.
“We didn’t give up, that’s for sure,’’ said Xavier coach Carrie Markham, whose team scored a 9-6 road win at Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Thursday (April 14).
So will a win like this help Xavier gain confidence and momentum the rest of the way, heading into the playoffs?
“You have to hope it will,’’ she said. “We’ve been talking about the way we have been playing, and how we need to keep playing like that.’’
The Gators have three games next week, on Tuesday (April 19) at Chandler Hamilton, Wednesday (April 20) at Mesa Desert Ridge and the final home game on April 22 against Mesa Red Mountain.