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.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Gator softball 2nd in tourney, shortstop out

Riley Flynn’s arm probably felt like it was going to fall off. Same thing for Bridget Donahey, but for a different reason.

It all added up to a bittersweet finish for Xavier Prep’s softball team on Saturday (Feb. 29) in championship bracket play at the annual Sunrise Mountain Tournament at Pioneer Community Park in Peoria.

The Gators scored two impressive wins early in the day, but couldn’t get the timely hits that coach Brad Downes wanted in the afternoon championship game against Peoria Centennial.

A three-run outburst by Centennial in the bottom of the sixth inning overcame a 2-1 Xavier lead for a 4-2 victory.

Xavier wrapped up the tournament with wins in five out of six games. The team scored in double figures in four of those.

“They (Xavier players) played well. It was a good weekend,’’ Downes said. “We are a lot better off than we were a couple of years ago (when Downes was an assistant). I don’t think we even won a game in the tournament then, but now we have five and it’s something to build on.’’

Just as she did a year ago in her freshman season, Flynn shouldered the load in the pitching circle.

She pitched 17 2/3 innings in the three games that covered nearly seven hours with a few brief breaks in between. One guesstimate had her throwing close to 250 or so pitches. And don’t forget another amazing feat – junior catcher Macy Lee caught every one of those pitches. That can take a toll on the knees.

In the bottom of the sixth, Berdina Riggs, one of two freshman pitchers for Xavier this season, got the final out after Meghan Golden, the starting and winning pitcher for Centennial, produced the decisive two-run single off of Flynn.

Downes admitted that Flynn “was a little tired at the end. She pitched in six games over three days. It’s been awhile since she’s done something like that.’’

Earlier on Saturday, Flynn worked an 11-0 win over Phoenix Greenway and a 13-2 win over Surprise Shadow Ridge.

Flynn will have a few days to rest up before going back out there for Xavier’s home opener at Petznick Field on Tuesday (March 3) against Surprise Valley Vista.

For about the next six weeks, it will be Downes’ job to figure out how his team will move forward in the wake of the loss of Donahey, a sophomore shortstop who is coming into her own among Arizona’s elite.

In the third inning against Greenway, Donahey was hit by a pitch in the right (throwing) arm, about halfway between the elbow and the wrist. She left the game shortly thereafter, and did not return to play in either of the other two games. A makeshift splint/cast was put on the arm, but Donahey was taken to a nearby medical facility by her father, and X-rays revealed a fracture.

She returned in the late stages of the game against Centennial and put up a brave front, trying to laugh it off. The arm was in a sling and she went out on the field to encourage her teammates in between innings, giving them high fives with her left arm/hand.

“The good thing about our team is that we have some nice interchangeable parts,’’ Downes said.

After Donahey’s departure, Downes moved some chess pieces around, switching sophomore Meghan Schouten from second base to third base, junior Jazmin Andrade from third base to shortstop and junior Sydney Johnson from outfield to second base.

For the time being, that likely will be what fans will see when the Gators play defense. Donahey’s older sister, Katie, a senior center fielder, also can play shortstop if needed. She put in a lot of time there as a sophomore.

“This situation is nothing they haven’t seen or been involved with in practice from time to time,’’ Downes said. “Jazmin in particular is a terrific third baseman, but she also is a very good shortstop because she plays at that spot on a regular basis in club ball.’’

Junior outfielder Lana Kline might take on a bigger role. She can use her speed on defense and offense can be used as a slap/bunt/leadoff type. She had two bunt singles in the win over Shadow Ridge.

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