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.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

After strange day, softball moves to quarters

 Perhaps the fact that the game started at an odd hour, 10 a.m., on Saturday (May 8) was a -reason for some unusual occurrences in the first round of the 6A Conference state tournament between top-seeded host Xavier Prep and No. 16 Yuma Cibola.

Despite the weirdness, the Gators advanced to Tuesday’s (May 11) quarterfinals with an 8-1 victory at Petznick Field. Xavier (16-2) will be back at Petznick to meet No. 8 seed Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (13-7), which rallied for a 7-6 win over No. 9 Mesa Desert Ridge. Cibola finished 14-5.

Of the seven other teams remaining in the tournament, Xavier has won four (O’Connor, Phoenix Sunnyslope, Mesa Red Mountain and Phoenix Pinnacle) and lost two (both to Chandler Hamilton).

Against Cicola, Xavier found itself trailing 1-0 after giving up a first-inning home run. Xavier was called for leaving a base early on a couple of occasions.

Umpires employed a seldom-used minutiae-like rule, calling Xavier pitcher Riley Flynn for lifting her foot off the pitching rubber not one, not two, but three times (pitchers must have at least one foot down to avoid a “hop’’), altering the pitch count. And a ball that umpires had said left the yard for a Bridget Donahey home run to lead off the third inning was changed to a ground-rule double.

Donahey managed to score anyway on a single by second baseman Meghan Schouten.

In the fourth inning, Donahey had a sacrifice fly taken away when it was ruled that a Xavier baserunner had left third base too soon to end the inning.

By then, Xavier head coach Brad Downes had seen too much and apparently said too much. The men in blue did not eject him, but banished him to the dugout for the rest of the game (he coaches third base) while assistant Deryk Sexton took over those duties.

“I guess you could say they put me in timeout,’’ said Downes, who still was able to relay voice signals to his defense from the dugout.

Xavier widened the gap even more with a four-run fifth. Catcher Macy Lee slugged a home run to start things off, another run scored on an error and two runs scored on a single by Sydney Johnson.

Downes said the ball was carrying a longer distance than everyone anticipated. Even on pop-ups that soared much deeper. In the Cibola sixth, a hitter hit a two-out popup that appeared Schouten would be able to handle with ease. It appeared she froze on the play and the ball dropped into right field for a double. But there was a reason for some confusion.

“You don’t know some of these other teams that you hardly ever see (hitters) and the ball is carrying,’’ Downes said. “I guess that would be on me. It was  a deal when you think you see something that you really don’t.’’

After giving up the first-inning home run to Cibola’s  Madison Matthews, Flynn settled down and finished with a four-hitter and 12 strikeouts.

Downes wasn’t necessarily concerned too much about the tournament seedings.

“We tried to look at this (Cibola) as any other game,’’ he said. “We call this the “third season.’ When you get to this point, you’ve gotta win four in a row (to win the title). Every team out there is trying to beat you, and they can.’’

6A Conference first-round results

Saturday, May 8

(Seedings in parentheses)

Xavier Prep (1) 8, Yuma Cibola (16) 1; Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (8) 7, Mesa Desert Ridge (9) 6; Phoenix Sunnyslope (5) 3, Chandler Basha (12) 2; Phoenix Pinnacle (4) 10, Mesa Mountain View (13) 0, 5 innings; Queen Creek (3) 7, Gilbert Perry (14) 1; Surprise Shadow Ridge (14) 1, Phoenix Desert Vista (6) 0; Mesa Red Mountain (7) 6, Scottsdale Chaparral (10) 5; Chandler Hamilton (2) 4, Tempe Corona del Sol (15) 0.

Quarterfinal schedule

Tuesday, May 11

All games, 4:05 p.m.

Sandra Day O’ Connor at Xavier Prep

Sunnyslope at Pinnacle

Shadow Ridge at Queen Creek

Red Mountain at Hamilton

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