Xavier edges Queen Creek in dramatic 6A softball championship

May 14, 2024 by Ben Stapley, AZPreps365

Xavier players and coaches celebrate after winning the 6A softball championship Monday night over Queen Creek. (Ben Stapley/AZPreps365.com)

Three out of four ain't bad.

Neither is Xavier pitcher Angie Falls. And it was the freshman's clutch performance that helped Xavier outlast Queen Creek, 3-2 Monday night in a thrillig 6A state championship showdown at Harrington Field that literally came down to the last pitch.

Queen Creek mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, eventually loading the bases. Sophomore Teyla Takacs came to the plate and drove a ball to deep center field, but Xavier's Lauren Putz had good position for the catch, securing the Gators third softball title in four years. 

Falls struck out 11 batters and gave up five hits in the complete game. One of five freshmen in the lineup, Falls also reached base twice, leading to runs on both occasions.

Queen Creek senior Jenae Berry was equally effective from the circle, striking out 12 batters while going the distance.

But it was Falls ability to pitch her way out of the game's most crucial moments that made the difference. 

"Queen Creek is really good hitting team, and they were coming to the top of their lineup in that last inning," Falls said. "What always helps me is knowing my defense is behind me and they can make plays, so I never have to feel like I have to strike everyone out. That was huge tonight."

Junior catcher Riley McKeever went 3-3 and drove in all three runs for Xavier (28-4-1). Her first RBI came in the second inning on a shallow blooper to left field. Freshman McKenna Hacket was pinch running for Falls and got home from second base for the 1-0 lead.

McKeever struck again in the fourth inning on line drive to deep left field, socring Kayla Porter and Hacket, giving Xavier a 3-0 lead.

The Queen Creek bats finally came alive in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Bulldogs scored two runs thanks to a bases loaded double from Makenzi Padilla, cutting Xavier's lead to 3-2. Even worse at the time for Xavier is there were no outs with runners in scoring position. Queen Creek smelt blood. That's when Xavier coach Bradley Downs took a walk to the circle for a visit with Falls and the infielders.

"The thing about Angie is she wanted the moment," Downs said. She wanted to keep going."

Did she ever. After a base hit that loaded the bases again, Falls retired the next three batters--two by strikeout--and the Gators escaped the inning with a lead intact.

In the bottom of the seventh, Falls quickly retired the first two batters before Queen Creek made things uncomortable. Back to back hits from Corrie Shull and Cece Marquez put them at second and third base. Xavier decided to walk Makenzi Padilla to load the bases before Falls was able to get Takacs to fly out to center field, and the celebration ensued.

"This is so amazing and such an honor to be a part of this team and to contribute in this win," McKeever said of calling the game for Falls in addition to her rbi's. "What's great about our team is there's never too much pressure on one player. I know whoever is in front of me or behind me is capable and that's how we all feel."

Queen Creek finished 26-5. 

"This is tough to lose such a close game and suddenly the season is over," Queen Creek coach Ann Pierson said the game. "Xavier is a great team and it only made sense that it came down to the final pitch. It hurts but I'm so proud of this teams and especially our senior class. This group means alot to our softball program."