Yucaipa Thunderbirds Softball Off To Good Start In Citrus Belt League

Written by Bob on March 17th, 2011

Sophomore, Kenzie Maxwell, has a 5-1 record, 0.78 ERA, and pitched 36 innings in helping the T-Birds to a 5-2 overall record, 2-0 in the Citrus Belt League. Photo By BOB OTTO

YUCAIPA, CA – Each Spring like an annual pilgrimage the Yucaipa Thunderbirds travel to play in the tough Corona Stu Penter Softball Tournament March 5-11. The tournament features some of the strongest teams in California.

The T-Birds have played well in the tournament but never won it – and this year it was no exception. They finished with a respectable 3-2 record, and T-Birds coach Dave Kivett is OK with that.

Because for Kivett, the tournament serves as a Spring training and an evaluation of sorts that allows him to gauge just what kind of team he has to work with when the most important part of the season begins: The Citrus Belt League.

And if the T-Birds can finish in the top three, it assures an automatic berth into the CIF-Southern Section post-season playoffs.

That being said, Kivett’s T-Birds got off to a strong start in CBL play when they swept the visiting Fontana Steelers, 1-0, and 9-2, in games played on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We just didn’t hit the ball well in the first game,” Kivett said before the start of the second encounter.

But after the second game, he was pleased with the T-Birds offensive explosion – especially that of Courtney Brown, who was 4 for 4 including two doubles and four RBIs. Brown’s offensive outburst has now boasted her stats into the stratosphere: She has a .476 batting average, 8 RBIs, scored 7 runs, along with 2 doubles and 2 home runs.

Senior, Courtney Brown, has been a hitting dynamo for the Thunderbirds. Photo By BOB OTTO

“Courtney is seeing the ball well and she is making it happen for us,” Kivett said of his senior third baseman.

Brown had plenty of help as the T-Birds pounded out 11 hits, and erupted for five runs in the first inning to essentially ice the game. Top batsmen included Brown along with Melissa Roberts 2 for 2, 2 RBIs. She leads the T-Birds with a .538 batting average; Tylar Bird 1-3, RBI; Justine Burdine 2-4, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Lauren Heilman 1-3, 1 run, and Kelsey Long 1-2, 2 runs.

So how did all this hitting suddenly come about after such an anemic performance in the first game? A pregame talk.

“The comment was made that we need to play our game,” Kivett said, “and wait for your pitch, move the runners, and we did a good job of that.”

Both ball games also featured two of the best pitchers in the CBL, the T-Birds’ sophomore, Kenzie Maxwell, and Fontana’s, freshman ace, Natalie Calderas.

Calderas threw well in the first game, pitching a complete game, scattering three hits, and allowing just the one run in the second inning. But Maxwell was just a bit better. The right-hander with a mix of pitches that includes a rise ball and drop ball, along with an effective changeup, held Fontana to one hit and struck out 10.

In the second game Maxwell wasn’t quite as dominant, but she was still too much for the Steelers to deal with as she scattered six hits, struck out 3, and both runs were unearned. On the season, Maxwell has a 5-1 record, pitched 36 innings, allowing but 4 earned runs, 24 hits, and struck out 27 batters. And her ERA is microscopic at 0.78.

Kivett probably counts himself fortunate because he can pencil Maxwell in the lineup for three more years.

“She was our primary pitcher last year and she is this year,” Kivett said.

The T-Birds are on a roll, having won five straight after dropping their first two games of the Corona tournament. But the schedule won’t be easy as the Citrus Belt League includes the likes of Redlands East Valley, Redlands (which knocked off highly-ranked Corona Santiago recently), Fontana A.B. Miller, Rialto Eisenhower, and Fontana.

After hitting a double, Justine Burdine, awaits the signal from coach Dave Kivett in the third base box during Yucaipa’s 9-2 victory over the Fontana Steelers. In the game Burdine was 2 for 4, with two RBIs, and had one of the six doubles the T-Birds hit.

Also on tap for the T-Birds is the 24th Annual Michelle Carew Classic, April 13-16. Yucaipa opens with Oaks Christian of Westlake Village and Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita on Wednesday, April 13.

To follow the T-Birds throughout the season, visit the Maxpreps website for a complete schedule, game and league results, statistics, and much more.

Click here for MaxPreps

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