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, June 12, 2019

Fun and fundamentals for softball campers

There is a lot of information for softball players to digest this week in Xavier Prep’s summer camp, but Gators head coach Brad Downes and assistant Deryk Sexton are doing all they can to provide the 19 campers with a well-rounded experience.

The daily sessions (Monday June 10 through Thursday June 13) begin at 7 a.m. and run until 10 a.m. The first part of the time is spent on the field at XCP’s Petznick Field, and when the weather starts to heat up, the action moves inside to Vestar Hall.

Downes said the players range from fifth through ninth grades. A few ninth graders could wind up playing for Xavier’s frosh team next spring. Some players are more experienced, including club/summer play, others not as much.

“We want to give them a mix of everything, and for them to have fun doing it,’’ he said.

Fundamentals are very important, and the girls compete in various categories, putting their defensive skills to work.

There are two teams, the Swamp Gators and the Avocado Toast.

Once Tuesday’s (June 11) session moved to Vestar, the players took their swings with their favorite bats at wiffle balls. The floor was littered with the yellow and white wiffles, and part of the players duties included picking them back up.

Baserunning and more defense are on the agenda for Wednesday (June 12).

The coaches are assisted by a handful of players from Xavier’s team that finished with a 17-5 record in the spring of 2019, Downes’ first as head coach.

“If there is something we can see the campers do that would be helpful to their swing or any other part of the game (adjustments), we do that. We want them to feel like they have improved,’’ Downes said.

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