E.A. Sports Today

Springville delivers 3-peat

Tigers complete sweep of Scottsboro for Class 5A softball title at Choccolocco Park; Swaney completes emotional year with MVP

Springville pitcher and tournament MVP Abby Swaney is embraced by a teammate after the Tigers won their third straight Class 5A state title Monday. On the cover, the Tigers celebrate in the infield. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — After two days of waiting and two venues, Springville won its third straight Class 5A state softball championship Monday, beating Scottsboro 2-0 at Choccolocco Park.

The game was the resumption of the “if” championship game suspended in the third inning Saturday at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.

Springville sophomore pitcher Abby Swaney was named most valuable player, completing an emotional season after losing her dad over the summer. Swaney pitched a shutout in the title game and held Scottsboro to one run in the championship doubleheader.

“They just really had my back ever this past year, they just helped me push through and I can’t thank them enough for that,” a tearful Swaney said in the dugout. “My coaches, my family, my teammates especially they’ve all been there through this and they know how hard it is and I just can’t thank them enough for having my back through this.

“This season, I really dedicated it to my dad. I’ve worked hard all season for him.”

The Tigers (45-11-1) carried a 1-0 lead into the resumption of play, Swaney kept the Wildcats (44-17) off the board the rest of the way, scattering five hits and striking out eight, and they added an insurance run in the seventh. Swaney pitched a four-hitter over five innings to force the “if” game.

“We dedicated our County Tournament to Abby and the loss of her father,” first-year Springville coach Brandon Easterwood said. “It’s been great to have these seniors so they can be around her. They knew how to rally around her and we came together as a community and did a great job of just supporting her.”

Third baseman Anderson Nolan made what Swaney called the “turning point” play of the game when she leaned over the dugout rail to pull back a foul ball with bases loaded for the final out of the fifth. The Tigers ended the game with a short outfield fly double play.

“Those type plays, that really won us the game,” Easterwood said. “It was our defense that won it for us. That ball hits in the dugout or hits something and they get another swing, one swing can totally change the game.”

The game came to Choccolocco Park as tournament officials tried to find a neutral enough venue to keep the teams from traveling back to Montgomery for what turned out to be four and a half innings. Jacksonville State was considered, but the Gamecocks were at their own NCAA regional and it wasn’t certain if the facility could be ready to handle the game.

The game at Choccolocco Park allowed Oxford officials to showcase their venue to the AHSAA in a real-time situation in advance of their bid to snag a regional from Tuscaloosa or state tournament. AHSAA and park officials on site Monday declined to comment on the possibility.

It may be a while before it happens, though. The regional and state tournaments are awarded on a bid system that goes out one year before the end of the current contract. There are three years left on the current contract. The area does meet criteria for lodging and field availability.

“The proximity for us, it would be better,” Easterwood said. “But this is state-of-the-art. You’ve got turf (on the Signature Field collars), you’ve got five or six fields over there. I think it would be great to host the championship game right here on this field for each classification.”

Springville’s Heather Levan slides into third ahead of the tag of covering Scottsboro left fielder Macy Kate Petriske in the seventh inning Monday. Levan later scored an insurance run on the next play. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos).

To see a gallery of B.J. Franklin photos from the game, go to www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com and click on the softball file

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