Maya Chambliss has all the makings of a star catcher.
The Archbishop Ryan High School junior has a cannon for an arm and brings with her a great bat. While those are two of the main things that catchers need, Chambliss has another quality that makes her the perfect backstop for the Ragdolls.
She loves to work with the pitchers.
Chambliss became the team’s starting catcher last year when she was a sophomore. At the same time, the team was breaking in a pair of talented freshmen pitchers, Moria Maw and Madison Velez.
She didn’t have time to think about what she had to do. Instead, she did everything she could to help the newcomers become acclimated to how to do things the way the Ryan softball team does it.
“It was a little difficult because I was a sophomore just starting and we had two varsity pitchers who were freshmen and they weren’t used to playing varsity softball,” said Chambliss, who lives in Parkwood. “I really just communicated with them a lot, I tried to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Form a bond with them while trying to help them with their pitching and their struggles.
“Now we’re really close, I have a close bond with both of them. They talk to me before every game, what their goals are, I ask them before each game, while trying to achieve them. I try to calm them down when they have nerves. I try to help them as much as possible, especially during big games.”
It didn’t come immediately, but the three girls worked hard to get on the same page. Now, according to Chambliss, the two pitchers and her are a cohesive unit. It’s also one of the reasons the Ragdolls are playing softball into the month of June.
Ryan finished second in the Catholic League during the regular season in a very balanced conference. The Ragdolls won two playoff games to advance to the Catholic League championship, fell just short to Conwell-Egan, but went on to win the District 12 4A championship by besting Swenson.
That run continued Monday afternoon when the Ragdolls walked it off against Villa Maria, winning the first-round game 10-9. They’ll play again Thursday against Northwestern Lehigh.
Ryan is always slated to be one of the top teams in the Catholic League, but this year’s roster included only two seniors.
Still, when you play for Ryan, there’s no such thing as a rebuilding year.
“I think this year we have a young team, but our bond helped us achieve a really good season and helped us beat some teams with older girls,” Chambliss said. “We had two really good seniors who helped us a lot, but I’m really proud of what our underclassmen did this season.”
According to Chambliss, a lot of that success comes from the hard work the girls put in every day. But she believes this team plays much better because they’re doing it for their teammates.
And now that the Ragdolls have qualified for the state playoffs, the goal is to continue to play well, improve and give the seniors, Janine Swift and Sabrina Pastino, a run to remember.
Chambliss also plans on using the extra games to become a better leader. But that’s something she’s worked on since she took over the starting job last year.
“I try to create a good atmosphere, if anyone is struggling I’ll talk to them and help them through that,” she said. “I have a really close bond with everyone, so if anyone has a problem outside softball, I’ll help them.
“I think I’m a leader even though catching has helped me realize I see everything on the field, I call out plays, I help with that kind of stuff. I am a born leader, I think, but playing catcher gave me that confidence. I can help wherever we need it.”
She’s also a star off the field, in the classroom, where her favorite subject is art.
“It’s my Art 3 honors class, so we do a lot of hands-on stuff that I need to take home to work on,” Chambliss said. “For our quarter four project, I created a poetry mug out of nature. I made my own clay, which was really hard, and other aspects of nature like leaves and branches and stuff to create that. I really like it.”
She also plans on working hard over the summer to make sure her final year at Ryan is a successful one.
“This summer I am practicing a lot on my own time because I want to get better.” she said. “I want to work on my throwdowns and overall hitting. Next year is my senior season, we’re losing two really good seniors, I do think that next year we’ll have a really good run. Next year we’ll have an older team, so that will give us an advantage.”
And, of course, she’ll continue to work with her teammates in the circle. If the pitchers are on the same page as their catcher, it will really help.
“My pitchers are my main priorities,” Chambliss said. “I care about the whole team, but I really do love the bond I have with both my pitchers and it’s helped me so much. I help them, but they help me become a better catcher. The whole team has helped me become a better player, so when I can help them, I love to do it.”