CARROLL – After reaching the Division III state title game the last three seasons, including a state title in 2013 and two runner-up finishes, the Bloom-Carroll softball team is once again expected to be back in Akron in June.
The main reason is senior pitcher Taran Alvelo, who is considered the top high school pitcher in the country. She is a preseason USA Today first team All-American, and rightly so.
In 2014, she was named the state Gatorade Player of the Year and was the national runner-up for the award. She was also selected as a first-team All-American by StudentSportsSoftball.com.
Alvelo pitched 182 innings and finished with a 0.46 ERA. She had a 27-3 record, giving her 81 victories for her career. Her 380 strikeouts were 10th-most all-time in the state for a season, giving her 1,111 for her career and putting her 14th. She is 270 strikeouts away from grabbing the Ohio career record.
She finished with 10 no-hitters last season, which tied for second in the state. She also had 16 shutouts. But Alvelo was at her best in the postseason. She threw five shutouts in seven tournament games and she had 91 strikeouts in the final five, including back-to-back no-hitters in a district final and a regional semifinal.
She also led Bloom-Carroll with a .455 batting average, had 40 hits, 32 RBI and seven home runs, giving her 29 for her career. She is also a three-time first-team All-Ohio selection.
The Bulldogs lost 1-0 to Westfall in a state-record 14 innings in last year’s state title game, while Alvelo broke a state tournament record for all divisions with 24 strikeouts.
However, with only one state title, this season takes on a new meaning for the senior, who verbally committed to Washington as a freshman.
“Losing the way we did last year was tough to take, but in the end, you can’t argue with games like that,” Alvelo said. “This year, I’m looking forward to winning a state title more than graduating, more than anything else.
“We need to win it and I need to win it so I can have closure to high school. That will be the only way I can look back on my high school years and say it was a success.”
The Bulldogs will have little bit of a different look this season after graduating four seniors. They do have five starters returning, including Morgan Sells, Kipley Detwiller, Kaylee Springer and McKenna Coffman. Sophomores Devan Gilmore and Hunter Gladman saw limited action in 2014, but are expected to take on bigger roles this season.
“We do have a bunch of new people and some freshmen that will have to step up,” said Sells, who is a captain along with Alvelo. “We have to help them understand how big and how important softball is here, and what being a part of something special means and how much work it takes.
“As a group, we can’t look at the big picture right now. We have a lot of work to do and we just have to focus on ourselves and try to get better every day. The younger players can be a part of something great if they buy into what we are trying to accomplish.”
Bloom-Carroll coach Aaron Alvelo said even though this year’s team will look different, the expectations remain the same.
“We have the same expectations that we have always had and that is getting back to Akron,” he said. “That’s our goal and it is a realistic one. We are talented, our freshmen are talented and we expect to get back there.
“This team will have a different identity than the last couple of teams, but like I said, the objective is the same. The seniors this year had a goal of being a four-time state champion when they were freshmen. The next best thing now is being a four-time state finalist. That is the most important thing.”