By the end of the season, Ervin found a formula that allowed Cleburne County to succeed. The Tigers made their first trip to the Northwest Regionals since 2010 and won their first Class 4A, Area 10 tournament championship. Ervin is The Anniston Star’s All-Area softball coach of the year.
“They overcame a lot of adversity,” Ervin said. “We had to shuffle the lineup around and play with it a little bit. Things didn’t work out very well for us at first, but we overcame it and got on a roll and won the area.”
The roll started in early April when Cleburne County got hot at a tournament in Pell City.
“We went on and won the whole tournament,” Ervin said. “Before then, we were still hit or miss. I took a look around and told the team we were where we wanted to be.”
Cleburne County went on to go undefeated in regular-season area play and host the area tournament, sweeping its way through it as well.
“We had a student section in the outfield on the back of trucks that we called the ‘Angels in the Outfield,’ and as soon as the games were over, everyone rushed the field,” Ervin said. “I think winning the area tournament was the biggest thing for our kids.”
When the Tigers went to Tuscaloosa for regionals, Ervin wanted to make it more of an enjoyable trip off the field than it was in 2010. Cleburne County stayed in a nice hotel and went to Alabama’s softball field during its down time.
“I don’t know if we were allowed to or not, but we let the girls walk on the softball field,” he said. “They took a bunch of pictures, so it was really cool. They also got to play in front of the Alabama players because a lot of the team was at the regionals. My girls took pictures with them and all that stuff.”
With Cleburne County only losing three players from the 2013 team, the fun may have just begun. Ervin said the Tigers will have eight players returning with game experience, and that’s creating excitement.
“We went in mid-June to JSU to play in their team camp. The girls are really excited to get back on the softball field,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a fun trip next year and a fun ride for us.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.