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, March 4, 2020

Flynn's walk-off homer decides home opener

There probably is no better way for a team to win its home opener.

And it happened on Tuesday (March 3) for Riley Flynn and her Xavier Prep softball teammates.

Flynn, the Gators’ reliable sophomore pitcher, was attempting to make her mark this time with her bat.

The score was tied at 2 in the bottom of the seventh inning against Surprise Valley Vista. Freshman Berdina Riggs led off the frame with a base hit to center field. Coach Brad Downes inserted junior Lina Vanderwey as a pinch runner and Vanderwey was sacrificed to second by Elliot Smith.

With one out, Flynn stepped to the plate and made contact with the pitch from the Monsoon’s Alexandra Hess, sending it over the left-field fence for a walk-off, two-run homer and a 4-2 victory.

Flynn rounded the bases and was greeted by a swarm of blue-clad teammates. Oh, yes, and she earned the pitching victory by scattering seven hits.

Xavier softball players spill onto the field to greet Riley Flynn after her game-winning home run in the bottom of the seventh inning (Photos by Sr. Lynn Winsor).

Riley Flynn fires a pitch against Valley Vista as third baseman Meghan Schouten, left, gets ready to make a play if the ball is hit to her.
Xavier, which earlier in the day had been listed at No. 7 in’s Super 10 teams (regardless of classification), raised its record to 6-1. Valley Vista slipped to 2-6.

Was Flynn looking for any particular pitch from Hess, considering she had faced her twice previously in the game, including her two-out single to center field in the fifth?

“She was throwing a lot of inside pitches, belt-high, and I thought she might throw me another one,’’ Flynn said.

When the ball left the bat, she did not think it was going to leave the yard.

“A pop-up, maybe. But I guess the wind helped it,’’ she said.

Xavier coach Brad Downes wasn’t sure at first, either.

“I saw it up there, and then it got out,’’ he said. “That was one way to do it (get the win).’’

Flynn had pitched all six of the Gators’ games in the Sunrise Mountain tournament over the weekend. Despite a couple of days off, did she still feel a bit of fatigue?

“A little bit, but I was mostly back,’’ she said. “I was still a little sore, but it wasn’t anything that was unmanageable.’’

Xavier's Gators (in blue) and Valley Vista Monsoon face the flag during the National Anthem.
Xavier took a 2-0 lead in the second when senior Cameron Martin and Riggs produced runs with hits. Riggs would finish the day with three hits.

Valley Vista got the runs right back in the top of the third on four hits and an error. The Monsoon had runners at second with only one out, but Flynn escaped with a pop fly to shortstop and a strikeout.

Flynn helped herself with some defense in the top of the fifth. The leadoff batter hit a double to left that was affected both by the wind and the sun, and the next batter squared up to bunt. The ball was popped up in foul ground on the third-base side. Flynn rushed over, took a tumble just as she crossed the foul line but still managed to catch the ball.

Martin, the right fielder, then caught a fly ball for the second out and threw the runner out at third as Meghan Schouten made the tag.

“That was an important play. It made a big difference for us,’’ Downes said.

Xavier will travel to face Glendale Mountain Ridge on Thursday (March 5) at 4 p.m. The Gators defeated Mountain Ridge 13-0 in the Sunrise Mountain tournament. Xavier will return home to Petznick Field on Friday (March 6) for a game against Mesa Red Mountain. First pitch is at 3:45 p.m.


*It appears that sophomore shortstop Bridget Donahey will not be sidelined as long as first thought when she suffered a fracture of her right forearm when hit by a pitch against Phoenix Greenway in the Sunrise Mountain tournament on Saturday (March 1). Donahey was feared to be out for six weeks, but it apparently will only be half that long.

*Xavier players were happy to see a friendly face in their dugout. Former Gator pitcher Kylie Rodgers, who graduated in 2019 after being declared cancer-free and going through a courageous battle with lengthy treatments, was announced as a graduate assistant coach. The cancer has returned, however, and she is receiving more treatment. Please keep her in your prayers, Gator Nation!!

*Congratulations are in order for Cameron Martin, whose application to attend prestigious Dartmouth College, has been accepted and she will be attending the New Hampshire school beginning this fall.

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