Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Xavier bats turn on the power, pop Perry

Redemption on the softball field is a dish best served with a heaping helping of home runs.

That approach worked very well for Xavier Prep’s Gators on Tuesday (April 9) with a 14-6 road victory over host Gilbert Perry, a game in which they bashed four home runs and accounted for 21 hits in total.

Just four days earlier, on April 5, Perry had escaped with a 5-4 win over the Gators at Xavier.

With Tuesday’s win, Xavier had hoped to climb out of the No. 6 spot on the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 6A Conference power-points list. That likely would have enabled XCP to have secured a better spot in the upcoming state tournament with one and perhaps two home games in the first two rounds.

But the latest numbers apparently did not justify any upward movement, and Xavier (13-3, 4-2 in Premier Region play) remained at No. 6 when the latest rankings appeared on Wednesday morning (April 10). Perry, on the other hand, was another story. The Pumas (15-6, 4-2) dropped from the No. 2 spot to No. 5, just ahead of the Gators.

So now Xavier has a home-and-home Premier Region series with Chandler High to wrap up the regular season. The first game is on Thursday night (April 11) at Petznick Field, and the later 6 p.m. start will allow XCP to pay tribute to its seniors on Senior Night. The second will be at Chandler on Friday (April 12) with a 4 p.m. start.

The first Xavier-Perry game featured a good pitchers’ duel between Xavier freshman Riley Flynn and Perry senior Saige Stutz. Fans hoped for a similar battle on Tuesday, but it did not materialize.

Xavier locked in on Stutz early and often, scoring six runs on seven hits in the first inning. The highlight was a three-run homer by sophomore catcher Macy Lee. The wind was blowing out all afternoon, but Lee’s shot did not need much help as the ball caromed off the big metal scoreboard behind the center field fence.

Junior Cameron Martin was next to circle the bases with one swing. That came with one out in the third inning to right-center. The third came when freshman second baseman Megan Schouten led off the fourth with a blast to right. And the fourth was a laser line drive to center for a three-run homer by freshman shortstop Bridget Donahey in the fifth that gave Xavier a 13-0 lead.

Stutz lasted just 3 1/3 innings, giving up 10 runs on 11 hits with four strikeouts. Perry used three pitchers on the day.

“We had a good day of practice (on Monday) and we talked a lot about what their pitcher (Stutz) does,’’ said Xavier coach Brad Downes. “We know she likes to work ahead in the count, so we wanted to be more aggressive early (in the count). We swung the bats real well.’’

Bridget Donahey collected five hits and hit for the cycle in the process. Martin had four hits and Sydney Johnson and Lee had three (Lee had five RBIs).

It looked like it might be a short day for Flynn. Had she set down the Pumas with little difficulty in the fifth, the game would have been shortened due to the 10-run rule. But Perry bounced back a bit, keeping things alive with four runs in the fifth, another run in the sixth and another in the seventh.

Five of the runs came on three home runs, including two by senior Kylee Hough. She might be the state’s best power hitter, maybe best hitter, period. She also hit a home run in last week’s game at Xavier and had another recent two-homer game.

Flynn gave up six runs on nine hits and three walks, with nine strikeouts.

“They (Perry) got onto her late in the game. It was kind of a hot day out there and they are a good-hitting team,’’ Downes said.

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