Saturday, June 3, 2023

Maxwell softball crushes Chester in D7 title game

The 2023 NSCIF Division IV champion Colusa RedHawksAfter losing six of its first nine games in 2023, the Maxwell Panthers could have given up on their season, but instead they chose to recommit themselves to the team.
In doing so the rejuvenated squad turned things around and won eight of its last 10 contests including the final game of the season, a 16-1 thumping of the visiting No. 2 seeded Chester Volcanoes to claim the Northern Section Division VII championship.
Playing on Monday, May 22 as a result of a scheduling conflict over the weekend, the No. 1 Panthers pounded out 12 hits, reached base six times as the result of errors and another five times courtesy of free passes issued by Volcano pitching.
Yet despite the unsolicited assistance from Chester, Maxwell got good pitching, made plays defensively, had timely hits and ran the bases well all game long.
Starting in the first, senior pitcher Jocelyn Lazarus worked around a leadoff hit and an error, while in its turn at bat, Maxwell responded with a two-out rally, scoring six runs on three hits.
Highlighting the barrage was a double off the bat of Bailee Haywood, which plated Lazarus for the game’s first run.
With Haywood taking third on the throw in from the outfield, Chester miscues then loaded the bases for the Panthers’ Allie Willis, whose bloop single accounted for two more runs.
In the second inning, Emma Hendrix and Lazarus reached on back-to-back singles before Ava Barrett drove in the pair with a single of her own, then eventually came around to score on an error.
Lazarus put down the side in order in the third, setting the stage for another six run strike from Maxwell.
Hendrix, Lazarus and Wills each singled in the frame, while Barrett doubled and in the process drove in two more runs.
Again the Volcanoes dug themselves an even deeper hole conceding four additional unearned runs.
The Panthers’ final at bats came in the home half of the fourth when Haywood’s second double of the game knocked in Hendrix, who had also doubled.
On the day Lazarus was 3 for 3 with an RBI, Wills went 2 for 2 and drove in three, while Barrett was also 2 for 2 with four RBI to her credit.
Haywood and Hendrix each finished 3 for 4 and drove in runs as well.
Yet in many ways, the game belonged to Lazarus in the circle, as she tossed a complete game one-hitter, striking out eight and walking two in her final appearance for the blue and gold.
Afterward the senior reflected on the significance of sharing the moment with her teammates by saying, “Even though we’ve beaten them the past two years in volleyball, this one feels really good. Our team is special because we treat each other like family. We play in unison, communicate well and we’re positive in the dugout.”
The win was meaningful in other ways as well, as not only does it represent the sixth championship in school history, it is the first in softball for head coach Forrest Bateman.
Bateman, who has won section titles in football, basketball and baseball, has come full circle in softball, a sport he coached upon arriving in Maxwell 25 years ago.
Although Bateman’s team lost to Hayfork his first time around, his current squad did him proud, as he explained.
“It’s really all them, they did it,” said Bateman. “We changed after the Biggs Tournament. We stopped worrying about individual accolades and did what’s best for the team. I’m very proud of what they’ve become.”
Maxwell concluded the season with an overall record of 10-8-1. ■

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