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, March 24, 2018

Rascon leads Xavier softball past Des. Mtn.

When a pitcher is at the top of their game, sometimes all they need is one run of support.

Xavier Prep’s Abby Rascon made that a reality on Friday (March 23) against visiting Scottsdale Desert Mountain at Petznick Field.

She made a third-inning run stand up, giving up just three hits (none after the third inning) and striking out 10 (at least one in each inning) as the Gators picked up a 1-0 victory

Xavier is now 3-9-2, Desert Mountain 4-14.

Rascon also had pitched well in a 2-0 loss to Sunnyside in Tucson on Wednesday (March 21), giving up four hits while striking out nine.

Against Desert Mountain, she walked the leadoff batter in the first inning and gave up an infield hit off her own glove. After that, the Wolves were able to do very little.

It appeared that Xavier might take a 1-0 lead in its half of the first. Melissa Fedorka belted a two-out triple. She attempted to score shortly thereafter, but the Desert Mountain catcher retrieved the wild pitch that rolled near the backstop and threw to the pitcher just in time to get Fedorka.

The Gators stranded two runners in the second, and hit paydirt in the third.

With one out, freshman Lizzie Marino singled to right center, stole second and came home on a bloop single down the right-field line by Sydney Johnson, another freshman.

Marino, who usually plays center field and leads off, is developing into an effective all-around player, both offensively and defensively. She is aggressive on the basepaths, part of which, according to Xavier coach Carrie Markham, could be attributed to her fondness for playing youth ice hockey and the aggression that it brings.

“She could play just about anywhere on the field,’’ Markham said.

The coach reserved most of her praise for Rascon.

“She has good off-speed pitches and consistently hits her location in and out (in relation to the plate). She doesn’t often miss pitchers and keeps the hitters guessing.’’

So that’s two close games in a row for Rascon. Does the low margin for error help her maintain her focus?

“Yes,’’ she said. “Today, my pitches were working – change-ups, screwballs and curves. When it (score) is close, I just try to breathe and slow everything down.’’

Before Easter break, the Gators will have three games in the coming week. They will face Gilbert Highland at Petznick on Tuesday (March 27), Chandler Basha at Petznick on Wednesday (March 28) and Basha again on Thursday (March 29) at Basha.

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