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Cedar Bluff, Spring Garden earn East Central Softball Regional titles

The Class 1A East Central Softball Regional champion Cedar Bluff Lady Tigers. Photo by Shannon Fagan.


ALBERTVILLE – Cedar Bluff and Spring Garden are on opposite ends of Cherokee County. They’re rivals on the courts and the playing fields. But when they’re not battling each other, they’re each other’s biggest supporters.

On Friday morning at Sand Mountain Park in Albertville, the two teams were playing for Class 1A and Class 2A East Central Softball Regional titles on fields right beside each other. They began play at the same time.

Spring Garden captured its 2A regional title first, an 8-2 victory over Ider. Just moments later, Cedar Bluff knocked off Woodland 9-1 for its first softball regional championship.

The two teams’ respective celebrations soon came together, as the Lady Panthers began making their way to Cedar Bluff’s field. The two teams agreed to have their pictures made together, making a memory neither side won’t soon forget.

“We have good relationships,” Cedar Bluff coach Garrett Crane said. “Getting between the lines, we’ll compete with each other, and that’s the way it should be. But outside of that, it really is a good bond, a good relationship with them. We talk to their coaches a ton. It’s really special to represent our county so well as one seeds going to state.”

“He’s (Crane’s) always asking about us, and we’re always asking about them,” Spring Garden coach Ann Welsh said. “We’ve been talking a lot this week, trying to help each other out. I’ve had people ask about them, and I’m like ‘I can’t do it (give a scouting report). That’s my buddy.’ I had some people chase me down in the hotel room this morning. I was like ‘I can’t do it.’”

The idea to have their pictures made together came from Welsh.

“We were talking about how we were right next to each other, and I said ‘Let’s just go get a picture with them if we both win. I think that would be neat,’” Welsh said. “We’ve always been in 1A together. They switched. We switched. We’ll be back fighting against each other next year, but I thought it would be fun. We’re both from the same county. We’ve got each other’s back.”

Cherokee County was well represented in Albertville. All five schools from the county qualified for the regional tournament. Cherokee County High School battled to within a game of state, but fell short on Wednesday. Gaylesville and Sand Rock both played at the same time as Cedar Bluff and Spring Garden on Friday morning in elimination games, with both coming up short to Appalachian and Pisgah respectively. Gaylesville fell 4-0, while Sand Rock dropped a 14-3 game to Pisgah to end their seasons.

“The competition level and the way we play in our county, it really speaks volumes for how strong our county is from a softball standpoint,” Crane said. “Every time we play somebody in the county, we know we’re going to have a good ball game.”

“It’s exciting,” Welsh said of all five county schools making the regional tournament. “It says a lot for our county and what everybody puts into it. It just makes it fun.”

In Spring Garden’s win over Ider on Friday, the Lady Panthers took a 5-0 lead through four innings before Ider scored a pair of runs in the top of the fifth. Spring Garden added a run in the bottom of the fifth and two more in the sixth for the final.

Bri Boles went 3-for-3 with a walk, three runs and two RBIs. Madison Brown added a pair of hits, including a double, with a walk, two runs and a RBI. Helena Ingram also had two hits and a RBI. Maggie Jarrett went 2-for-3 with a walk.

Avery Steward collected a hit, two walks, two runs and a RBI. Kayley Kirk contributed a hit and a RBI. Abbey Steward had a hit and a walk. Neely Welsh drew a walk.

Abbey Steward earned the win after working all seven innings. She didn’t allow an earned run on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

“We felt like our region was one of the toughest ones,” Coach Welsh said. “We’ve been working on some things we knew we would see in each game. They bought into it. They worked hard. We had great practices this week. I felt this was their goal. They were all in. I felt like every game we played was a total team effort. The last two games we scored every inning and moved people when they got on. They hit the ball well, and I was really proud of that.”

In Cedar Bluff’s win over Woodland, the Lady Tigers scored a pair of runs in the top of the first, two more in the third, and four in the sixth to take an 8-1 lead. They added an insurance run in the seventh for the final.

Mattie Payne led the Lady Tigers at the plate, going 4-for-4 with a triple, a walk, three runs and a RBI. Haley Allen added three hits, including a double, with three RBIs. Jordyn Walker doubled, singled, scored three runs and had a RBI. Reece Patterson singled, walked, reached on a pair of Woodland errors, and drove in three runs.

Walker earned the win after giving up an earned run on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

“We’ll enjoy this and celebrate, but we’ve got to get back to work for some unfinished business,” Crane said. “We’ve still got a week of ball left to do something special.”

The Class 2A East Central Softball Regional champion Spring Garden Lady Panthers. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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