Xavier Prep’s softball team made a living this season with a prolific offense that helped overcome early deficits. It helped carry the Gators to a 20-4 record as the No. 6 seed in the Division I state tournament.
After getting a bye in Saturday’s (April 30) opening round, it appeared Xavier had a perfect setup – a home game on Tuesday (May 3) against 11th-seeded Chandler.
The Gators scored first in the opening inning, but trailed 2-1 after five innings. They were hopeful that their bats would make some noise and a rally would give them the win.
The offense did wake up a bit, but it wasn’t enough as Chandler recorded a 3-1 victory and eliminated Xavier.
The Gators finished 20-5. Chandler (19-12), meanwhile, advanced to the double-elimination portion of the tournament that begins Thursday (May 5) and will meet third-seeded Mesa Desert Ridge.
Xavier left eight runners on in the contest. The Gators let a big opportunity slip away in the fourth, loading the bases with nobody out but failing to push any runs across.
There still was a glimmer of hope, at least for a tie, in the bottom of the seventh against Chandler pitcher Gabby Baker, who shut out Gilbert 6-0 in the first round.
As Xavier trailed 3-1 with two outs, Annamarie Hartman hit a high chopper over Baker’s head for a hit, and Megan Donahey hit a ground-rule double to left field. The ball bounced over the fence, forcing Hartman to stop at third. Had the ball remained in play, Hartman would have scored and Donahey likely would be at third with No. 3 hitter Becky Ducar due up.
Ducar hit a smash at the Chandler shortstop, who fielded it on the short hop and fired to first base in time to get Ducar for the game-ender.
“That was the way it went for us all day,’’ said Carrie Markham, who wrapped up her first season as the Gators’ head coach. “One or two feet right or left and that (Ducar’s shot) would have tied the game. We hit the ball hard (Xavier had six hits), but it was right at them.’’
It was a tough way for Ducar, Donahey, pitcher-first baseman Caitlyn Dickman and pitcher-infielder Emily Richards to end their senior seasons.
After Xavier athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor addressed the team following the game, Markham and assistant coach Joe Bogart huddled together with the four seniors.
“I thanked them for their leadership,’’ Markham said. “They were by far the best example for the younger players to learn from.’’
Dickman and Ducar will move on to play at Villanova and Donahey at Princeton. Richards remains undecided in regard to her college choice.
The pitching torch will be passed in 2017 to Kylie Rodgers, who as a freshman saw a significant amount of time in the circle late in the season. She also played right field.
“She knows what her role is going to be,’’ Markham said. “She just needs to mature a little bit. Once she gets to her senior year, she is going to be killing it.’’
The coach said there are a few other pitching candidates, including a few from this year’s JV and freshman teams.
Hartman, who is the leadoff hitter and plays left field, also is expected to play a big role in her senior year. Melissa Fedorka had a solid season as a sophomore and should continue to improve.