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, February 25, 2017

Gator softball finds something on which to build

Before each season begins, coaches always wonder about their team and what will happen once the green light is turned on.
Will pitchers be able to perform when the pressure is on? Can hitters step up in clutch situations?
All in all, Xavier Prep’s Gators were a competitive group during their first battles on the field of 2017 in the Sunrise Mountain Invitational over the weekend in Peoria.
Xavier finished 3-2 in its five games, showing signs that it will be able to develop consistency.
The Gators split their two games on Thursday (Feb. 23) against Glendale Raymond S. Kellis and Surprise Shadow Ridge, won their single game on Friday (Feb. 24) against Peoria Centennial and split two more games on Saturday (Feb. 25) against Anthem Boulder Creek and Phoenix Pinnacle.
“We got a better idea of how the girls played, whether they could step up. It was a good esperience for our team,’’ said coach  Carrie Markham. “Our pitchers did pretty well, all things considered. We have a young staff and some might be a bit nervous, but we were able to get some of that out of the way and move forward.’’
The win over Kellis was 15-2 and the loss to Shadow Ridge was close – 6-5.
Against Centennial, Xavier scored a combined for eight runs over the first two innings and held on for an 8-5 victory.
In bracket play on Saturday, the Gators downed Boulder Creek 9-4 and dropped a 14-1 decision to Pinnacle. Led by former Xavier coach Bobby Pena, Pinnacle was the state big-school runner-up last season and features one of the state’s top pitchers, junior Marissa Schuld.
Xavier will get another chance to defeat Pinnacle with a road encounter on Wednesday (March 1). The Gators open the home portion of their season on Tuesday (Feb. 28) with a game against defending state champion Chandler Hamilton at Petznick Field.
Among the top hitters in the tournament were catcher-first baseman Melissa Fedorka and outfielder Annamarie Hartman. Mercedes Silva did a solid job in the pitching circle.

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