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, May 1, 2019

Softball rallies from 5-run deficit to win 7-5

There is practice speed. There is regular-season speed. And there is playoff speed.

In order for a team, in this case, a softball team, to keep playing, it must figure out how to shift gears and play at a higher level.

Xavier Prep’s fourth-seeded Gators did that on Tuesday (April 30), but it didn’t start out that way in a 6A Conference state tournament game against No. 13 Queen Creek at XCP’s Petznick Field.

The Gators allowed the Bulldogs to score the first five runs of the game for a 5-0 lead in the second inning, then came back for two runs in the third and five in the fourth and held on for a 7-5 victory.

The tournament now shifts to a double-elimination format, and Xavier (16-3) plays another home game in the “A” bracket on Thursday (May 2) at 4 p.m. against No. 12 Tucson High, which posted a big 4-1 upset of No. 5 Perry in Gilbert on Tuesday.

A year ago, Tucson defeated Xavier in a “play-in’’ game, preventing the Gators from reaching the state tournament.

So now it’s a new ballgame, with Xavier undergoing a major overhaul with an infusion of promising young talent, particularly at the freshman level.

Pitcher Riley Flynn is among that group, and she has performed well all season. Against Queen Creek, however, she struggled in the early going.

Xavier coach Brad Downes looked out at the scoreboard to see his team’s deficit. While that might have concerned some coaches, he said it did not bother him.

“I wasn’t really worried,’’ he said. “It had been more than two weeks (April 12) since we last played a game (against Chandler High). We had been swinging the bats well in practice, but there is a different speed between that and a regular game, and now a playoff game like this.

“The same thing applies to Riley’s pitching. You saw that today. She started out trying to get a feel for things, and we saw her improve and get stronger as the game went on.’’

Flynn gave up five runs on five hits in the second inning, including a three-run home run by Jaylei Brechler, but surrendered just two hits after that. She also maintained her composure despite being called for illegal pitches a few times by the umpires.

In the third, Xavier had two runners on base with two outs after a single by Katie Donahey and a double by Jazmin Andrade off the first baseman’s glove. Flynn then hit a tapper back to the circle for what appeared would be an inning-ending out, but the pitcher threw the ball very low over to first and it went for an error, allowing both runs to score.

That gave the Gators new life, and they took the lead in the fourth. Run-scoring hits by Cameron Martin, Meghan Schouten, Andrade and Flynn would prove to be the difference.

If Xavier defeats Tucson, it would advance to the next round on Tuesday (May 7) at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in north Phoenix (7:30 p.m.) against either top-seeded, defending state champion Phoenix Pinnacle or No. 9 Scottsdale Chaparral. Pinnacle is coached by former Xavier coach Bobby Pena.

If Xavier loses to Tucson, it would go to the loser’s bracket at Rose Mofford on Saturday (May 4) at 1 p.m. against Pinnacle or Chaparral.

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