E.A. Sports Today

State softball here in ’21, ’22

AHSAA approves state softball tournament coming to Choccolocco Park next two years

By East Alabama Sports Today

MONTGOMERY – After many years of softball enthusiasts in this part of the state campaigning to see it happen, the AHSAA Central Board of Control on Wednesday approved moving the state softball championships to Choccolocco Park for the next two years.

The 2021 tournament is scheduled for May 18-22.

Montgomery’s Lagoon Park had hosted the state tournament since its inception win 1986, but it had been the subject of numerous complaints in recent years. It will now host the East Central Regional that had been set for Choccolocco Park this spring.

Other regional sites included Florence, Tuscaloosa and Gulf Shores. Actually, the Montgomery site is more convenient for most of the teams that would be sent there. Anniston area teams typically play in the Tuscaloosa regional.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to play our state softball championships at a complex that is designed solely for fast-pitch softball, has experience hosting state and national events and has a signature field and stadium just for championship games,” Kim Vickers, AHSAA Assistant Director in charge of softball, said in a news release announcing the change.

Choccolocco Park, the home site for Oxford High School softball games, is scheduled to host the Southern Athletic Association Collegiate Conference championships April 21-25 and the National Junior College Fast-Pitch National Championships May 25-29.

The area does meet criteria for lodging and field availability.

The facility got a taste of hosting the state softball championship in 2017 when it hosted Springville and Scottsboro in the four-inning conclusion of their 5A title “if” game. The game was suspended in the third inning two days earlier because of conditions in Montgomery and Choccolocco Park was chosen because of the proximity of a quality venue to the two competing schools.

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 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 the state tournament. AHSAA and park officials on site that day declined to comment on the possibility, but that didn’t prevent others involved from commenting.

“The proximity for us, it would be better,” Springville coach Brandon Easterwood told East Alabama Sports Today that day. “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.”

Spain Park coach C.J. Hawkins expressed a similar sentiment earlier that season after her team won Oxford’s Spring Sting. She wasn’t just being a gracious winner that night. She advocated playing the state tournament there.

“This facility is spectacular,” she said. “You can break the news that we should be having the state tournament at a site like this instead of at Lagoon Park. Wendy (McKibbin, Oxford’s coach) and I are both very adamant about getting change, putting it in a college stadium, putting it in a stadium as gorgeous as this. The girls deserve to be treated with this kind of respect.”

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