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 2, 2022

Softball defeats Westwood, honors late former pitcher

 Xavier Prep left no stone unturned in its 2022 softball home opener on Tuesday (March 1) at Petznick Field.

Before visiting Mesa Westwood could take a breath, the Gators had things well under control, courtesy of a 13-run first inning. Xavier went on to finish with a 25-3 win in a game that was mercifully halted by the 10-run rule after five innings.

The Gators pounded out 20 hits, including a grand slam by Norah O’Donnell and a three-run shot by Izzy Hycnar.

Xavier ace senior pitcher Riley Flynn worked the first two innings, then gave way to left-hander Tabitha Von Kolen.

Honoring Kylie Rodgers

Another Arizona sunset was made even more special after the game when late former pitcher Kylie Rodgers was honored exactly six months after her untimely passing due to cancer.

There was a ceremony that had her number (20) retired and a placque that will hang in the home dugout that is being named after her.

There were a handful of speakers, including Kylie’s mother, Mary Kay, current team members Meghan Schouten and Elliot Smith, head softball coach Brad Downes and Xavier Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Schouten had written a tribute article that was published on the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Web site,

Xavier administration, many faculty and staff, Xavier graduates, alumnae parents and friends of Kylie were in attendance. School officials put the count at 150. And Tuesday’s opponent from Mesa Westwood was gracious enough to remain on site to witness the proceedings.

Kylie’s father, Blake, was among the family group and Kylie’s brother, Noah, participated, receiving the retired jersey. A student at Brophy Prep, he was supported by many of his lacrosse teammates.

Speakers related stories about Kylie’s desire to defeat her disease and how she interacted with teammates and others, being supportive of them even in the wake of her own illness. Kylie knew she was loved, and loved in return.

Those in attendance gathered to reminisce afterward in the walkway behind the ballpark and had cupcakes with yellow frosting, Kylie’s favorite color.

It was a very fitting tribute.

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