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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

XCP softball earns trip to Tucson

Despite falling 5-2 to visiting Gilbert Perry in its regular season finale on Monday (April 23), Xavier Prep’s softball team lives to fight another day.

The Gators qualified for the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s “play-in’’ round on Wednesday (April 25) as the No. 23 team (out of 24). They will play at No. 10 Tucson High. Xavier is 4-16-2, Tucson 18-12.

The winner would qualify for the final bracket of 16 teams and the first round that begins Saturday (April 28) at the sites of the highest seeds.

So anything can happen.

The Gators struggled for much of the early season, but played much better down the stretch.

“The way we have played the last couple of weeks, we have made significant improvements,’’ said XCP coach Carrie Markham. “We were a young team going in, but the younger players have shown that they don’t think they are young players anymore.’’

Xavier seems to be hitting the ball better, as evidenced by a 9-1 win over Chandler High on April 20, a triumph that essentially got them to the No. 23 spot. They collected seven hits against Perry.

Against Tucson, Markham will choose between seniors Mercedes Silva and Abby Rascon as her pitcher, or a combination of the two.

On Monday, Perry scored a run in the top of the first inning on a disputed call.

With two outs, the Pumas’ Piper Lujan hit an opposite-field shot to right. Xavier right fielder Kristiann Ferreira went back near the fence and raised her arms to signal that the ball bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double rather than going over on the fly for a home run.

The field umpire ruled that the ball went over on the fly, but Xavier coaches contended that the ball bounced through an opening in the Fiberglas-type fence.

Perry scored again in the top of the second, and the Gators looked as though they might have a chance to tie in the bottom of the second. With one out, they had runners at first and third, but they were left stranded.

Xavier did manage to score its first run in the third inning, cutting Perry’s lead to 2-1.

Lizzie Marino led off with a double and scored on Jordan Bassett’s two-out single.

In the fifth, Perry had a runner at third that appeared would be an out after she strayed too far off the bag. Bassett, the catcher, threw to third baseman Macy Lee, who made the tag. But the same umpire who earlier ruled on the Perry home run called Lee for obstruction on the baseline and the runner was allowed to remain at third. Xavier again protested, but to no avail.

Silva, however, bailed her team out by striking out three straight batters with runners at third and second.

Perry took a 5-1 lead in the top of the sixth on a solo home run and a two-run shot.

Silva provided Xavier’s final run in the sixth with an RBI groundout that scored Melissa Fedorka, who began the inning with an opposite-field triple to left.

“Play-in’’ softball games

(Seedings in parentheses)

All games on Wednesday (April 25) at 4 p.m.

Phoenix Alhambra (24) at Chandler Basha (9), Chandler High (17) at Gilbert Highland (16), Phoenix Desert Vista (18) at Gilbert High (15), Yuma Kofa (21) at Phoenix Mountain Pointe (12), Glendale Mountain Ridge (22) at Mesa Desert Ridge (11), Avondale Westview (20) at Anthem Boulder Creek (13), Tucson Sunnyside (19) at Tucson Rincon/University (14), Xavier Prep (23) at Tucson High (10).

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