It was the state championship softball game and most assuredly was accompanied by some nervousness beforehand.
So how do you rid yourselves of that? What did Xavier Prep’s Gators do?
Would you believe, a bit of country-style line dancing in front of their dugout?
“It helped us break the ice,’’ said senior catcher Macy Lee.
So the Gators dug their cowboy boots (OK, softball cleats . . .) into the dirt at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium, gained their footing and went about the business of trying to win the first state title in the school’s history.
Led by Lee, the top-seeded Gators achieved their goal to cap off a run that rarely has been witnessed in the tournament, and likely will not be matched by teams any time soon.
Including Monday night’s (May 17) 10-0 victory over No. 7 Mesa Red Mountain in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule, Xavier “run-ruled’’ three of its four state tournament opponents, outscoring them 40-3 to finish with a 19-2 record.
|Seniors Macy Lee, holding trophy, center, Sydney Johnson, left, and Jazmin Andrade, right, celebrate Xavier Prep's 6A state softball title. (Photo by Don Ketchum).|
The first one came in the third inning on a laser double off the left-field fence that caromed back toward the infield so fast that Xavier coach Brad Downes, who also has third-base coaching duties, had to hold baserunner Bridget Donahey at third. Donahey scored on a passed ball shortly thereafter for a 2-0 lead.
The big one came in the fourth inning.
With some fans thinking it would be nice to see the ball rocket out of the yard this time, Lee stepped to the plate with one out and did just that. She held her own Macy’s Parade, passing the third-base dugout as Downes high-fived his assistant coaches. Lee finally reached the plate, where she was greeted by her adoring teammates.
And there was more to come in the fifth. Lee hit a ball over the center fielder’s head for another double that brought home two runs, and junior Meghan Schouten ushered the evening to a quick close when her sacrifice fly allowed Donahey to score the 10th run.
Hundreds of blue-clad XCP fans erupted, cooled by a light breeze and the 77-degree temperature. It just added to the atmosphere.
It was time to bring out the shiny 6A Conference title trophy, and it was presented to the team by Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Director David Hines.
“Well, you did it. You did it with class like you always do,’’ Hines said of the program and the school in general.
Downes had a different air than after previous wins. He was able to take a deep breath and break into a big smile.
“I am thrilled for them (players). This is a credit to their talent.’’
He did not really think about “run-ruling’’ during the tournament.
“I knew we had the potential for it. We had the hitting, had the power, had the speed and had the pitching.’’
He pointed out that nine different players hit home runs this season to bring the total to 32. Donahey, a junior shortstop, had 10 with 30 RBIs and Lee had five as part of her team-leading 36 hits and 30 RBIs. Xavier averaged 9.3 runs per game and 87 of its hits went for extra bases.
Lee hits the ball as hard as anyone in the state, but she really didn’t think about a home run in her second at-bat.
“I was going up there with the mindset that I just wanted to hit the ball hard for the team,’’ she said.
“In Day 1 this year, as the tryouts were getting going, the coaches let us know they were going to be pushing us and pushing us hard because they knew what we were capable of. It was a blessing for all of us that this happened.’’
As essential as Lee, Donahey, junior second baseman Schouten and all of the position players were, the Gators would not have reached this level without the remarkable season of junior pitcher Riley Flynn.
She gave up two hits to Red Mountain (18-6), walked four and struck out nine. She finished the season at 16-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 108 innings.
“Riley was lights out,’’ Lee said. “She was hitting her spots like she had been doing all season.’’
Part of Xavier’s celebration came when a “W’’ (win) banner, similar to the ones used by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, was brought out for some photo ops.
It almost didn’t happen. Assistant coach Deryk Sexton, Downes’ top lieutenant, had arranged the acquisition, but it somehow got misplaced. So Sexton, trying to keep the plan alive, managed to get another in the days before the game.
“All I got to say is, thank goodness for Amazon,’’ a relieved Sexton said.