Everywhere you looked yesterday at Hammond, it seemed something was falling out of the sky.
In the first inning, it was back-to-back-to-back home runs by Jason Maxey, Brian Brewer and Joey Benedetti.
And at the end of the game, it was a shower of ice water from a Gatorade bucket, as Jason Maxey unsuspectingly climbed atop the dugout, then soaked his coach and father, Bob Maxey, in celebration of Hammond's first Howard County title in a decade, courtesy of an 8-3 win over River Hill.
"It feels like a big weight has kind of been taken off our shoulders," said Brewer, who hit his sixth and seventh home runs of the season off Hawks pitcher Matt Cornelius. "It feels great to be a county champion, but you can't focus on this too long. This was only one of our goals this season."
Still, the No. 4 Bears (17-1) couldn't help but savor the moment in the first inning, as Jason Maxey started things off with an opposite-field home run to left, his eighth of the year. Three pitches later, Brewer crushed one over the center-field fence, and three pitches after that, Benedetti hit it over the wall in left-center.
"I thought Maxey just hit a great pitch," said River Hill coach Rick Logan, whose team dropped to 12-5. "He reached out and hit a curveball the only place he could hit it. The other two, [Cornelius] just left up in the zone. They hit his mistakes."
The Hawks never recovered after that, though mostly because Bears pitcher Jeff Miller did a nice job of shutting down a potent River Hill lineup, yielding only one hit through the first four innings.
The Hawks finally solved Miller in the fifth, scoring two runs on three consecutive singles, but by then the hole was too big to climb out of. Pat Fields drove home two with a double in the second, and Brewer hit his second home run of the game to lead off the third.
"You know, it's funny, the last few years, I've gotten some pretty good hitters that can hit it out of here," said Bob Maxey. "Now all of a sudden, people complain that our park is too small. For 22 years, they don't have a problem with it, because everybody comes in and plays competitive games with us. I get a pretty good charge out of it."
"It's been a long time since we've won anything here," said Jason Maxey. "I think the pressure is finally off us, and I wouldn't be surprised if we start playing our best ball from here on out."