For Pahranagat Valley sophomore Stockton Maxwell, the backyard dream where he helps his team win a second consecutive championship didn’t come in the final inning.
It came in the third inning of the Panthers’ 5-4 win over the Indian Springs on Saturday in the Class 1A state title game at Durango.
“What a great job he did,” Pahranagat Valley head coach Brad Loveday said. “He just came in and threw strikes. His curveball was really sharp today, and I can’t say enough about him. I’ve got a game ball for him in my pocket right now. I’ve got to give it to him in just a few minutes so he did a great job.”
With the bases loaded, one out and Indian Springs (25-6) threatening to blow the game open to force a second game, Maxwell came on in relief of starter Christian Higbee and killed the rally on three pitches with a popup to the shortstop and a 4-3 fielder’s choice.
“It feels awesome. I’m glad we got the win,” Maxwell said. “I just told myself, ‘I gotta get it over the plate,’ and I tried. I was doing everything I could to throw strikes.”
Maxwell picked up his second win of the tournament by pitching 2⅔ innings. He allowed one hit, struck out two and walked one.
Despite shutting down the Thunderbirds’ bases-loaded rally, the Panthers (22-9) still had work to do. Indian Springs did score two runs in the third inning on an RBI single from Nino Alvarez and an RBI double from Wrench Perry to extend its lead to 4-1.
In the bottom of the third, the Panthers scored three runs, tying the game on Garrett Higbee’s RBI double.
“It was just a fastball,” Higbee said. “The pitch before I was out in front of it, but this one I just kind of waited back on it, and took it for a little bit of a ride.”
The deciding run would come in excruciating fashion for the Thunderbirds. After Indian Springs starter Dillon Pollock got two easy outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, an error on a routine ground ball led to Tabor Maxwell’s RBI double to give the Panthers the lead.
Stockton and Tabor Maxwell combined to keep the Thunderbirds at bay in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but Indian Springs refused to go down easily in the top of the seventh inning. The Thunderbirds loaded the bases with two outs against Tabor Maxwell. Starting pitcher Christian Higbee then re-entered the game to record the final out.
“Nice, it feels very nice,” Tabor Maxwell said. “A few more insurance runs would have been nice, too. No, it was good. I liked it. It was fun.”
Garrett Higbee and Tabor Maxwell each doubled and had two RBIs for the Panthers. Perry finished the game 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs for the Thunderbirds.
“This isn’t fun, but (Pahranagat Valley) is a great team,” Indian Springs head coach Eric Hauge said. “We’re a great team. We battled back and forth. This season for us went awesome. I felt like we were playing some real good baseball at the end of the year, but we just ended up one short.”