Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Gators won't be denied as they win 2nd title in a row

 Simply undeniable.

For the second straight season, Xavier Prep’s Gators proved they are the best softball team in Arizona, capturing the 6A Conference championship on Saturday night (May 14) at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium 13-0 over Chandler Hamilton in a game that was stopped after five innings due to the “10-run rule.’’

Xavier’s 10-0 win over Mesa Red Mountain for the first title in school history in 2021 also ended early with the 10-run differential. That game was at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium.

Brad Downes, who also coached the 2021 Gators, said he and his assistant coaches – Deryk Sexton and Tom Sahhar – were proud of the players.

“What we did with our seniors this year and our seniors from last year put this team on the map,’’ said Downes, who was sprayed with water by a player or two.

“We’re a different team than the one last year. When we started, there were some things that were new. But we also knew that if we worked hard, this (another state title) was a strong possibility.’’

Xavier put their fingerprints all over the 6A state softball championship trophy (Photos by Don Ketchum).

This year’s seniors played a pivotal role throughout the season. They were pitcher Riley Flynn, shortstop Bridget Donahey, infielder Meghan Schouten, first baseman-pitcher Emma Petersen and outfielder Elliot Smith.

The top effort against Hamilton was turned in by Flynn. She narrowly missed throwing her second no-hitter in the tournament, but Hamilton’s Liv Losorto smashed a drive off the ground and then Flynn’s glove, and by the time Flynn recovered, the throw to first was too late.

Flynn, a four-year player, finished with a 21-3 record and 215 strikeouts to go with last season’s 16-2 record and 178 strikeouts.

This season, she also hit .418 with 22 RBIs and four home runs, and had two hits against Hamilton. The first was a bunt single in a five-run first inning and the second was a double when she led off a second straight five-run inning in the second. The ball went over the third baseman’s head and down the left-field line.

So whoever chooses the Player of the Year need look no farther than Flynn’s doorstep.

She is not worried about anything like that right now. She wants to take all the emotion in, including the support from a big gathering of vocal Xavier fans sitting behind the Gators’ third-base dugout.

“That first championship in Tucson was so fun, at least for me, but this one is very special, too,’’ Flynn said.

Asked which pitch or pitches were working for her on this night, Flynn said, “I was spinning the ball pretty well, hitting my spots.’’

Gators signify their No. 1 spot in the state.

Saturday’s win, the fourth of the season over Hamilton, capped a big day for Flynn and the seniors. They also walked down the aisle in the school’s graduation ceremony on Saturday morning in Phoenix.

“I think most of us got up early, but we’ve done a lot of that the last four years,’’ said Flynn, who received the game ball from her coaches and teammates afterward. “The ceremony was great and then we started thinking about softball again. We knew what we wanted to do, what we needed to do.’’

Xavier had 10 hits on the night and got help from seven walks and a pair of Hamilton errors.

Schouten was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and scored three runs, Petersen had two hits and drove in a run, junior second baseman Lauren Putz had a double and a pair of RBIs, and freshman catcher Riley McKeever had a hit, a pair of RBIs and drew two of the team’s seven walks. Putz and Donahey also had a pair of walks.

In the second inning, Putz fouled a pitch off a lower leg/ankle and sat on the ground briefly as Xavier athletic trainer Laurie White tended to her. After a few minutes, Putz stood up and remained in the game.

Athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor provided well wishes to the team afterward and said how proud everyone was of the team, including a number of former XCP graduates who were on hand.

Winsor also took a phone call from Xavier President Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, and the team greeted her with loud cheers. The players also posed for numerous photos, some including the state title trophy.

Next on the Xavier agenda this summer will be the addition of new artificial turf at Petznick Field, which is home for softball, soccer and lacrosse.


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