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Panthers upend Bandon, league title in reach

Gold Beach outfielder Dakota Hensley (#14) is congratulated by several teammates after scoring a run in the Panthers 3-run sixth inning against Bandon on Thursday.

C.J. Maxwell’s RBI single in the sixth inning broke a 1-1 tie and propelled the Gold Beach Panthers to a 4-2 win against the Bandon Tigers at Tiger Field in Bandon Wednesday afternoon.

Panther starting pitcher Dustin Carter and reliever Garrett Littrell held the Tigers to two runs on six hits. Littrell was able to work out of a jam in the bottom of the seventh inning, when he struck out Bandon’s Shawn Peters - with the tying on third base and the winning run at second base. 

The game was deadlocked at 1-1 when Maxwell lined an 0-2 fastball for a run-scoring single. Maxwell’s hit provided a shot in the arm for the Panthers, as they scored three more runs in the inning to give Littrell a cushion at 4-1.

“I became kind of discouraged after falling behind 0-2 but I knew I had to keep my cool in a clutch situation like that and I knew I had to come through for my team,” said Maxwell after his tie-breaking base knock. “I was excited and relieved.”

Staked to a three run lead, Littrell found himself in a jam in the bottom of the seventh, as Bandon rallied. The Tigers were able to score a run and load the bases on Littrell with the help of an error and three walks. The right-handed hurler beared down and struck out Peters with the bases loaded to end the game.

“If I’m up by three runs and I have my best athlete on the mound I usually just go sit and relax,” admitted Panther head coach Greg Brown. “We were going to win or lose with him.”

“It was pretty tense but I knew Garrett would pull through for us,” added Maxwell.

Gold Beach (17-5, 8-0) is tied for first place in the 1A/2A - SD5 league. They host Bonanza in a high noon, doubleheader showdown for the league title on Saturday.

“We’ve had a pretty big history with Bonanza. My sophomore year a pretty good rivalry started up between us and them. We’re going to do everything we can to put it to those guys,” said Maxwell of the upcoming twin bill. 

“I expect to see good pitching out of them. They’re a good ball club and you have to respect them. We just have to keep a cool head.” 

The Panthers have turned around a program that won only one game two years ago and nine games total from 2008-2012. According to Brown, much of this season’s success can be attributed to a turnaround in attitude after the 2011-2012 season.

“Two years ago, when we only won one game, we made a rule that no quitters are allowed,” declared Brown. “We don’t quit. These kids don’t give up, they don’t quit.” 

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