No. 2 Bear River’s stunning 180-degree turnaround in under 24 hours resulted in a 4A softball state championship. The Bears entered Saturday down 0-1 in a best-of-three series, needing two victories over No. 1 Tooele to be crowned state champs. The second-seeded school did just that, shocking the Buffaloes twice in one day by scores of 4-2 and 14-6.
After being shutout by Tooele on Friday, Bear River’s tone was set by the Maxfield sisters in the initial inning on Saturday. Batting third in the lineup, junior third baseman Mccall Maxfield broke the Bears’ championship silence with one crack of her bat. Her hit flew over center field and out of the park. Older sister and cleanup batter Oaklie Maxfield ripped off the second Maxfield solo homer to center minutes later, giving the Bears a 2-0 lead at the end of the first.
“If we get timely hits, we will win. I think that’s what happened.” — Bear River coach Calvin Bingham
The Maxfields were ready for the moment.
“When we’re both on, there’s no stopping us. Since it was (Oaklie’s) last game I think I was more excited for her because she should go out with a bang, and that’s what she did,” the younger Maxfield said. “I just wanted to get up there and hit a decent hit.”
The sisters’ dual home runs were the difference in the game, as the Bears won by two. Bear River’s defense complemented its offense, with one of the most incredible plays of the day coming when Tooele was at the plate.
In the bottom of the fourth, Buffalo pitcher Attlyn Johnston sent a rocket to senior outfielder Olivia Taylor in center field. The athletic Taylor, glove outstretched, backed up as far as she could, before falling over the fence and coming down with an out that robbed Johnston and Tooele of a sure home run.
“I’ve seen Olivia Taylor make two or three catches this year that were just outstanding,” Bear River head coach Calvin Bingham said, following his 10th state championship. “She’s, to me, our MVP. How she goes is how we go. Yesterday she struggled. Today she got going.”
The Maxfield’s offense and Taylor’s defense proved to be just enough for the Bears to force Game 3 with Tooele.
The final game of the year was a one-sided affair for Bear River, with its momentum building inning after inning. The school would never trail all day long, in either game, allowing its offense to get in rhythm and put the Buffaloes into a panic.
The Bears’ longtime head coach felt his team would bounce back from Friday’s loss.
“We’ve been hitting the ball pretty good lately. It didn’t surprise me,” Bingham said. “We didn’t really talk much yesterday. We had nine left on base, that indicates we didn’t get timely hits. If we get timely hits, we will win. I think that’s what happened.”
The Bears got timely hit after timely hit in Game 3. Reminiscent of Saturday’s opening game, the Bears jumped out early, scoring in the first inning. Bear River added to its tally in the third and then again in the fifth to take a 6-0 lead. The top of the fifth marked Tooele’s first pitching change of the final series, when Johnston was replaced by sophomore Sadie Baker.
The final two innings then saw a flurry of runs. Bear River used three singles, two walks and three errant pitches to score four runs in the sixth and go up 10-0. Tooele scored its first run of the game on a two-out error, warding off the mercy rule and sending the game into the seventh.
After four more runs for the Bears in the seventh, including another Mccall Maxfield home run, the Buffaloes put up all the fight they had left. Tooele loaded up the bases and scored five runs before the final out. The top seed got a home run of its own when sophomore Ayden Fitch shot a three-run homer over the center field fence. Yet, the Buffaloes rally fell well short of a comeback.
“We didn’t look great finishing that second game,” Bingham said. After a rough beginning to its state title series with Tooele, Bear River ended the series on a similar note. Bingham summed up his team’s dramatic second-day turnaround: “It’s a hard way to win a tournament.”
Despite taking the hard way to win the state final, Bear River has brought the 4A state softball trophy back to Garland, its 2018, and now 2021, home.