All Natalie Both had to do on Tuesday was stay around the plate, and after the Chandler hitters weren't able to get anything going outside of one inning, the No. 3-seeded Xavier moved into the double-elimination portion of the state Division I softball tournament.
Xavier (25-4) meets No. 6 Horizon on Thursday night at Rose Mofford Softball Complex in Phoenix in the next round.
“She just dominated on the mound,” Park said of her pitcher after Xavier's 5-2 victory against visiting Chandler. “We are confident in her – she is going to go out there every time and throw strikes.”
No. 19 Chandler (17-14) had reached the second-round game with a somewhat surprising 5-1 win over No. 14 Chaparral last Saturday. But the Wolves only got to Both in the fourth inning on Tuesday, when they got two runs on three hits.
Outside of the fourth, Both allowed just three singles and no runners reached third. She struck out six and walked one.
“I felt on today, I felt confident, confident in my defense,” Both said, admitting she could take advantage of a slightly liberal strike zone. “If we get runs, I can just go out there and trust in everyone to hold them.”
Wolves starter Kristal Whiteside had a wild first inning and then got into a jam in the third but settled down after that. She retired the last eight in a row, but it was too late by then.
“They were always looked at as the underdog no matter what team they were facing,” Chandler coach Kim Higginbotham said of her team. “They kind of embraced that mentality and today hit some balls at some people. It didn’t work out but we hung right with them.”
Whiteside had troubled at the outset, throwing 11 balls in her first 13 pitches. She walked the first two batters – Mallory Belknap and Jackie Martinez - and then Kendyl Melton reached on an error. Park followed with her two-run grounder and later Danielle Maldonado knocked in another run with a grounder. That ended up being all Both would need.
The Gators added two more, one on a wild throw, in the third to take a 5-0 lead.
While Whiteside had trouble finding the plate early, Both was on the other end of the spectrum. She threw strikes on 10 of her first 12 pitches, striking out the first two batters and allowing just one hit over the first three innings.
Ashton Spears and Kayla Escobar hit back-to-back doubles to open the fourth for Chandler. Whiteside drove in the second run of the inning with a bloop single down the left-field line. But Both got Haley Barraza to fly out to right and Alina Lopez on a comebacker and then coasted.
She retired seven straight before giving up a two-out single to Jordan Blakesley in the sixth. Barraza got a leadoff single in the seventh but Alexus Ybarra and pinch-hitter Tori Blakesley flew out to end the game.