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SOFTBALL: Marauders thwart Panthers comeback in overtime

Monache coach Dave Koontz coaches Marauders to final win over Porterville before retiring after 27 years of coaching

PORTERVILLE – The Marauders and Panthers delivered an exciting season finale with an in-the-park home run, an attempted comeback and concluding a 4-3 overtime win.

On Thursday, May 11, after the Marauders put three runs on the board the Panthers mounted an impressive attempt to come back against their cross town rivals, sending the game into an extra inning. Though the Marauders have a significantly better record, something about the rivalry between the two Porterville schools seemed to spur both teams to play their best game. As he is retiring at the end of the season, Monache coach Dave Koontz witnessed his last game between the rivals, taking home a final win.

“That might have been the most exciting game of my career in 29 years of coaching,” Koontz said. “That game was amazing. That was like a storybook. That is why you coach, moments like that.”

The Marauders may have had the game in the bag if it weren’t for the Panthers’ determination to defeat their rivals. In the sixth inning, Abigail Smith hit a single to center field, sending in Morgynn Wylie and Klarissa Manriquez for two runs. On the next at bat, Lexi Olmos got an impressive hit to left field to allow Smith to tie the game. The Marauders would have to work again to beat their rivals.

“I think it was the timing of pitching,” Porterville head coach Maddie Emerson said. “They just got used to [the Monache pitcher] and they started getting on her.”

The runs in the sixth inning ended up sending the game into an extra eighth inning after nobody scored in the seventh. The Marauders defense held off the Panthers. Senior Jessica Batres showed impressive fielding to get the first two outs. She was able to control the first two hits towards third base and get the ball to first long before the runner could reach the bag.

The Marauders were at the bottom of their lineup, but Makenzie Haslam was up to the task. She watched Porterville pitcher Sophia Martinez and patiently waited for her pitch, knocking the ball straight down the third baseline for a double. By the time sophomore Jaydin Sabol stepped up two batters later, the bases were loaded with no outs. All the Marauders needed was a single and Sabol delivered, sending Haslam home for the game winner.

“I’ve coached 63 [games against] Porterville in 27 years,” Koontz said. “I love this stuff. We’ll be fine in the playoffs.”

The Marauders and Panthers couldn’t have given Koontz a more exciting end to his coaching career. Freshman Devyn Emerson even got an inside-the-park home run with a hit straight down the first baseline that could have gone foul but didn’t. As the Panthers tried to get the ball to home plate, Koontz and her teammates waved her home for the second run of the game.

The Marauders finished league second in the East Yosemite League with a record of 7-3. They had tough losses to Redwood and El Diamante but those games only prepared them for the tough playoffs ahead. The Marauders won a valley championship in 2022 and will hope to repeat this year.

“I expect this team to be ready for the playoffs,” Koontz said. “And I expect us to do well.”

The Panthers finished fifth in the EYL, ahead of only Mt. Whitney, with a record of 2-8 in league play. They will also head into playoffs having faced the tough opponents in the EYL all season, but Emerson fears they lack the drive they tend to only have when they play Monache.

The playoff brackets will be released May 13.

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