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.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Softball campers work hard and have fun

 A chance to walk where the Gators walked, to be on the same field that served as a launching pad for Xavier Prep’s first state softball championship, was a memorable experience for most in a group of young ladies who participated in the first of four rounds of the XCP summer softball camp at Petznick Field on Monday night (June 7).

Xavier Coach Brad Downes, assistants Deryk Sexton and Tom Sahhar and a handful of former and current Gator players welcomed about 16 players of varying ages to the camp, which is running at night this year after several summers with morning sessions.

The cooler (by comparison) weather was more conducive to a session of greater benefit for the campers.

Xavier softball campers line up for the next drill (Photos by Don Ketchum).

For two hours, the players did some jogging and sprinting, played catch (extending the distance of their throws), worked on over-the-shoulder catches (both infielders and outfielders), and took ground balls.

One camper prepares to field a ground ball on Petznick Field's artificial surface.

They also had a drill in which they tested the accuracy of their throws from the shortstop area to a tee at first base with a net behind it, trying to knock the ball off the tee. A few of them did so, one after the ball hit the ground first and another on a ricochet off the frame of the net. But they still counted.

The best was saved for last when the players stood in at the plate as they took their hacks against Downes, who was making the tosses behind a net/screen. After everyone took their swings, they were divided into three teams for a “game.’’ The excitement level rose considerably.

Could this be Xavier's next great hitter? It will be interesting to find out.

Players providing assistance were recently graduated senior catcher Macy Lee, incoming senior outfielder Elliot Smith and third baseman Lauren Putz, a sophomore-to-be. The state champion Gators also took some swings, hitting the ball as hard and as far as the campers could dream they will be able to do some day.

Downes said the campers ranged in age from incoming fourth graders to incoming freshmen.

“We (coaches) really liked the energy from the campers and their willingness to try new skills,’’ Downes said. “The camp is a fun time for our (varsity) players to work with the campers and the campers certainly like meeting the players.’’

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