Seniors lead Cordova back to Montgomery

Blue Devils open against Northside on Friday

By W. BRIAN HALE, Eagle Sports Writer
Posted 5/16/17

CORDOVA — The Cordova Blue Devils entered the 2017 season with an experienced group of returning players and plenty of motivation.

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Seniors lead Cordova back to Montgomery

Blue Devils open against Northside on Friday

Posted

CORDOVA — The Cordova Blue Devils entered the 2017 season with an experienced group of returning players and plenty of motivation.

Following a close loss in the area tournament in 2016, the Blue Devils watched as their two area qualifiers went to the state tournament — leaving the team with the feeling that a few plays separated them from a trip to Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.

The experience of an additional year under head coach Brittany Vintson, along with the motivation gained by last season’s shortfall has served Cordova well.

Entering Friday’s Class 4A state tournament opener against the Northside Rams, the Blue Devils have improved their record from 22-25 to 30-15-1 on the year, while capturing the Area 10 championship and the school’s first North Central Regional top qualifying spot.

Leading Cordova’s resurgence has been the play of the team’s three seniors, Hannah Ingram, Kristen Swindle and Baleigh Robertson.

Ingram, a multi-time ASWA All-State selection, was been a force at the plate, batting .570 with 43 runs scored, 56 RBIs, 14 doubles, five triples and seven home runs.

She felt with the experience of the returning squad and the focus on hard work her team has displayed, the Blue Devils were primed for a successful year.

“There were people that didn’t think we’d do as well as we have prior to the season, but coach Vintson told us in our first practice that no one believes in us, but we believe in ourselves,” Ingram said. “That’s been a team mind set for us. Coach Vintson is wonderful — we all love her. She connects with us on a different level. She pushes us, while she also knows how to bring out the best in the entire team.”

Cordova’s 15-0, three inning victory over Hokes Bluff in the North Central Regional Tournament semifinal matchup served as another critical motivator. Entering the second inning and up 2-0, the Blue Devils scored nine runs and finished off the Eagles in the third inning in one of the most complete victories of the season. The next day, Cordova shutout Hamilton 3-0 to claim the region title.

“That win over Hokes Bluff gave us complete confidence. When we went into the game with Hamilton, we felt were playing at a top level,” Ingram said. “It proved to us that we had the talent and drive to play at our best.”

Swindle has made important plays this season as well, both offensively and at shortstop. Batting .339 on the year, she’s scored 20 runs, recorded 12 RBIs and four doubles. She approached her senior season with a drive to see her team make a return to both the region and state tournaments and pave the way for future success.

“The people before the season that said we weren’t capable of being a good team, I wanted to prove them wrong. We want to work as hard as coach Vintson wants us to and take the opportunity to get better every practice,” Swindle said. “Any team has the chance to take the day off, but we’re not going to do that. We’re going to take that time to improve. I felt that we’ve gotten better and stayed true to what coach Vintson taught us. Since we have all of the girls from last year back with us, the team bond is much stronger and I think we’re really better prepared for this year’s state run.”

Robertson has also proven to be a strong contributor at the plate this year, batting .480 with 49 runs scored, 43 RBIs, 13 doubles, three triples and six home runs. She also has one thing that sets her apart from her teammates that makes her experience vital — a state championship ring. Robertson was a member of the 2013 Parrish Tornadoes State Championship squad, prior to the school’s closure, and is eager to conclude her prep career with a second ring as a Blue Devil.

“The atmosphere at the state tournament, and more importantly in a championship game, is completely different from anything a player can encounter. I’ve been getting our younger girls prepared for it, as being there can be a motivator, but for some it can be stressful and terrifying. I don’t want anyone to freeze up, so I’ve been doing everything I can to help pass on my experience,” Robertson said. “Youth is something that we’ve had these last two years — with three of us being seniors, there will be a lot of veterans returning next year. As we’ve become more prepared and mature, we’ve wanted to make sure that lessons we’ve learned during this time are passed on to the girls that will carry the program for years to come.”