Etowah wins softball regional

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

Etowah High pounded out 23 hits and senior pitcher Madison Grant allowed just four earned runs en route to Class 5A North Regional Tournament softball title last week in Huntsville.

The Lady Blue Devils advanced to the state tournament this week in Montgomery, where they open against Helena on Wednesday. It is Etowah first state finals appearance since 2007.

“I told the girls on the bus ride home that we had to beat the three best teams (in the regional tournament) in order to win,” said Etowah head coach Stephen Coggins. “It wasn’t a cakewalk for us, so that’s a big accomplishment. I couldn’t be more proud of the girls. We’re super-excited to go to state, and right now the girls believe that they can win.”

Grant earned the victory in all three games, racking up 20 strikeouts while scattering 19 hits and 11 walks in 22 innings.

“Madison pitched well in the first game, struggled a bit in the second one but got the job done,” said Coggins. “Against Russellville, even though she gave up about six hits, she probably threw one of the best games she’s pitched all year long.”

Etowah opened the tournament on May 12 with a 4-3 win over Ardmore.

Taylor Bush went 2-for-4 with a run scored; Emma Jones had a double, two RBI and a run scored; Aimee Fancher and Bree Vasser each had a hit and a run scored; and Melissa Love had a hit and an RBI.

Weather conditions then postponed the semifinal game against Lawrence County until Friday (May 13), when the Lady Blue Devils posted a 5-3 victory.

Bush went 2-for-4 with a run scored; Alyssa Howard had a double and two RBI; and Vasser and Jones each had a hit, an RBI and a run scored.

Etowah then defeated Russellville, 10-1, in the championship game. Howard and Vasser each hit a grand slam with four RBI and a run scored; Grant had a two-home run, two RBI and two runs scored; Bush went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored; Krislyn Farmer went 2-for-3 with a run scored; and Jones went 2-for-4 with a run scored.

According to Coggins, the Lady Blue Devils tied the state record for both grand slams in an inning and in a game.

“I was think of laying down the bunt single in Alyssa’s at-bat with the bases loaded, but during a time-out, Madison asked that we let Alyssa swing the bat,” he said. “I said okay, and the second pitch she sees she hits out of the park. Sometimes you have to trust your team and go with your gut feeling.”

Coggins noted that qualifying for the state tournament held added extra significance in light of last season, in which the Lady Blue Devils failed to make it out of the regional.

“I can’t say that this team is better than last year’s team,” he said. “Talent-wise, I think they’re even, and I think that the team bond is as good if not better than last season. But the one thing I see in this year’s team that I didn’t see last year is that these girls have not quit in them. No matter what the score is or what the situation is, they keeping battling, and eventually they just wear down [the opposition] until they win. I told them that’s what champions do.”

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