Yellow Jackets claim second straight 4A state title
Curry players head towards the trophy after being announced as the Class 4A state champion following a 5-0 victory over LAMP in the state championship game Thursday at Lagoon Park in Montgomery. The Yellow Jackets outscored the competition 26-2 in their four tournament games.
Daily Mountain Eagle - Johnathan Bentley
By W. BRIAN HALE, Eagle Sports Writer
MONTGOMERY — This year, there was little drama for the Curry Yellow Jackets in the AHSAA Class 4A State Championship final.
The top-ranked Yellow Jackets entered the championship contest with a goal of victory in mind and came out in top form, beating the Loveless Academy Magnet Program (LAMP) Tigers 5-0 for Curry’s second-consecutive state title at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.
Unlike last year’s state championship campaign where the Yellow Jackets lost in the primary bracket and were forced to battle through the elimination bracket and two games spanning 18 innings of play, Curry got the job done in one shot on Thursday — with an elite defensive effort.
Ashlee Swindle, whose performance for the tournament garnered MVP honors, led a defensive squad that allowed just two runs throughout two days of play.
Against LAMP, Swindle gave up five hits and a walk, while striking out 12 batters in the seven-inning shutout. Her effort in the final also included a vital two-run home run at the plate, which provided an early lift for the Curry offense.
Swindle’s memorable day included another career milestone, her 1,000th strikeout, which she recorded in the morning game against Central Florence.
“I’m just so proud of my team — we worked hard for this and to end the year with the trophy is perfect,” Swindle said. “It seemed like we came into the final with complete determination, as though everything that we had prepared for since we were children came together in this last game and everyone played like champions.”
Fellow seniors Emily Aaron, Justus Perry and Kaylee Horton were also named to the All-Tournament team.
Perry, who finished the game at 1 for 2 at the plate with two runs scored and a home run, also had the honor of recording the final out of the game to secure the title victory.
“It’s an amazing moment for all of us — the game was a combination of hard work and everything falling together perfectly as a team,” Perry said. “It’s so great to see such great athletes and amazing people get what they deserve.”
Aaron also capped off the final with an impressive offensive and defensive performance, going 2 for 3 with two runs scored and a home run.
“There’s no other way to end our senior year except with a title — it’s what I’ve been saying all season long,” Aaron said. “To be able to finish my high school career with a second state championship and a home run in the title game is a dream come true.”
Horton was a vital component on both sides of the ball throughout the tournament, turning several plays on defense, while scoring runs and making clutch base steals.
“This is the way we wanted to leave our legacy — through hard work, dedication and being not just a team, but a family who did it all together,” Horton said. “For our last moment together as Curry Yellow Jackets to be back-to-back state champions is priceless.”
Senior Taylor Rowe also contributed at the plate with a hit and an RBI, while sophomore Kyndra Richard was 2 for 3.
Swindle hit the first home run of the game in the bottom of the first inning, also driving in Aaron to give the Yellow Jackets a 2-0 advantage.
With Perry waiting on third base in the bottom of the third inning, Rowe hit a sacrifice fly to add another score to Curry’s lead, 3-0.
The home run hitting picked up again in the bottom of the fifth inning when Perry and Aaron sent solo shots over the fence -- leaving the Yellow Jackets on top, 5-0.
The game came to a conclusion in the top of the seventh inning when the Tigers grounded out to Perry for the final out and the title victory for Curry.
Curry coach Philip Smith, overjoyed with his program’s championship win, said his team performed to top standards.
“With Ashlee in the circle and our defense playing so well, we did exactly what we’ve done all year long — make plays, score a few runs and get the win. It’s been our motto throughout the season,” Smith said. “I can’t say enough about this group of girls we have on our team. The senior class is part of a squad that might be the best that’s ever come through the state. Our record speaks for itself and with the teams that we’ve played, the tournaments we’ve competed in, if there’s ever been one better, I’d like to see it. The girls have handled the pressure very well throughout the season and there’s no other way for us to go out than with the trophy.”
Curry 1, Central Florence 0
The Yellow Jackets fought off a tough challenge from Central Florence to emerge victorious, 1-0 and advance to the championship final.
Swindle earned the seven-inning shutout win, giving up two hits, a walk and striking out seven batters.
At the plate, Perry was 2 for 3 with an RBI, Aaron went 2 for 3, Horton was 1 for 3 with a run scored and Richard and Keana Pearson both recorded this.
The Yellow Jackets got the game-winning score in the bottom of the fifth inning when Perry drove in Horton on a single for the 1-0 win.