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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Scrimmage gives softball reason for optimism

Maybe, just maybe, if Xavier Prep’s softball team has enough good fortune to reach the 6A Conference state tournament this spring, the Gators can reflect back on when it all started, to an afternoon when the sun played hide and seek with the clouds and the wind chilled players and fans to the bone.

The Gators, who have a new head coach in Brad Downes, a new assistant in Deryk Sexton and only a few returnees from last season, started fresh on Tuesday (Feb. 19) at Phoenix Arcadia with a scrimmage against the 4A Titans.

An official score was not kept, but if you’re still counting, anyway, Xavier came out on top, 8-3.

It was a far cry from last season, when the team finished 4-16-2.

Downes, an assistant coach last season, was pleased by what he saw and the potential that exists for the Gators as they open the season on Thursday (Feb. 21) in the Sunrise Mountain Invitational at Peoria’s Pioneer Park.

Weather permitting, Xavier will face Glendale Mountain Ridge at noon and host Sunrise Mountain at 2 p.m. Games are on time limits. The Gators are due to meet Goodyear Millennium on Friday (Feb. 22) at 2 p.m.

“Yes, we are very optimistic,’’ Downes said. “We were aggressive with our hitting and running the bases and our pitching and defense were good. We have a few things to work on, but that’s OK.’’

Xavier wasted little time in establishing itself. Freshman outfielder/shortstop Megan Schouten led off the scrimmage in her first at-bat as a Gator and slugged a home run into the teeth of the wind in right-center field.

Schouten wasn’t the only freshman to excel. Infielder-catcher Bridget Donahey hit a two-run homer in her first at-bat to left to drive in her older sister, Katie, a junior center fielder-shortstop, who had walked. Bridget Donahey drove in two more runs, on a double and a sacrifice fly.

Marisa Sgambati, one of two primary pitchers for the Gators (freshman Riley Flynn is the other), escaped trouble in the bottom of the first with the help of a double play. Bridget Donahey speared a line drive at shortstop and threw to first to catch a runner off the bag.

Sgambati, a senior who did not play for the Gators last season, pitched 3 1/3 innings, giving up no runs on one hit and striking out four.

Flynn entered the game in the fourth and gave up a two-run homer to Jordyn Pender, but was otherwise solid. Pender also drove in the third Arcadia run with a wind-blown single in the seventh.

Flynn had a good sense of when to put zip on the ball and when to let up and let the slower movement of the pitch catch the batter off-guard. She surrendered just two hits and struck out seven.

All 13 available players batted for the Gators.

With most players versatile enough to play more than one position, Downes should have plenty of flexibility during the season.

“I’m excited for the players and I think they are excited to get started,’’ Downes said. “We have a good group.’’

He tries not to mention what happened last year. He wants the players to concentrate on what’s ahead.

“Our theme is “Better,’ ’’ he said. “We have team and individual goals, but it’s all about the process. If we do the process right, we will win more games.’’

2018-19 Xavier Prep softball roster

Head coach – Brad Downes. Assistant coach – Deryk Sexton.

Jazmin Andrade, So., 3B-SS; Cara Coffman, Sr., INF; Bridget Donahey, Fr., SS-C-3B; Katie Donahey, Jr., CF-SS; Riley Flynn, Fr., RF-P; Sydney Johnson, So., LF; Macy Lee, So., C-INF; Cameron Martin, Jr., RF-2B; Amaris Mori, Jr., C-3B; Kylie Rodgers, Sr., P; Analisa Roman, Sr., 1B; Ashlee Sanchez, Sr., RF-2B; Megan Schouten, Fr., OF-SS; Marisa Sgambati, Sr., P-1B; Elliot Smith, Fr., 1B-C-OF.


  1. There is definately a great deal to find out about this topic. I like all the points you have made.

  2. Thank you so much for this excellent, detailed reporting. The Gators are pumped and ready to take on the competition.